Chehalis Western Trail holds a dangerous surprise

May 10th, 2022 by Ken

The Chehalis Western Trail runs for several miles through Olympia and Lacey forming the boundary line between the two cities in many areas.

It’s a calm relaxing trail – – winding through the countryside, past farms, Chambers Lake, and even through new housing developments.  It’s a nice and relaxing way to travel – – see the countryside – – and spend some time outdoors.

There’s one problem with that bucolic scene.  A major natural gas pipeline runs right through the middle of the trail.  A pipeline that is dangerous if it were to rupture.  Many people along its path would be killed and millions of dollars of property would be damaged.

When the Chehalis Western railroad went of of business, Thurston County obtained the railroad and its right-of-way, with the intention of turning the track bed into an urban trail.

But, the county suffered from lack of money and couldn’t find any way to get the trail constructed.  Then came Puget Sound Energy (PSE).  They were looking for a way to put a natural gas pipeline in the area and the old Chehalis railroad right-of-way was the perfect fit.

Under an agreement with the county, PSE removed the railroad ties, lowered the bank and paved the entire stretch of the trail.  In the process it dug a ditch down the middle of the trail and laid its natural gas pipeline.  It was fine.  Everyone came out a winner.  The county got a new urban trail and PSE got a location for its pipeline.

Then came the earthquake of 2001.  The trail suffered several cracks and buckling.    When I reported the damage, the county said it wasn’t their responsibility.  I contacted PSE and they gave me the name of the contractor.   I contacted him and  he said he had checked and there was no damage to the pipeline.   Later, I found that no paperwork had been filed stating the fact.

Why do I bring this up – now two decades later.  Because we have had least one major earthquake since 2001 and more are expected.  It would be nice to know that someone is responsible and that Thurston County and PSE are aware of the potential problem and have coordinated response plans with local fire agencies.

Posted in Business, Government, Informational, The Real News

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