What lies beneath

Gas line replacement project in Post Falls to continue this month

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POST FALLS - Avista Utilities expects work on this year's portion of a $1.4 million natural gas pipeline replacement project in Post Falls to finish in early November.

"This project in Post Falls is part of a 20-year plan to replace pipe (systemwide in three states)," said Laurine Jue, Avista spokeswoman. "We're in our third year of this program."

The first phases in Post Falls late this summer and fall have focused on 3.4 miles of streets south of Third Avenue between Bay and Greensferry.

This month's work in east Post Falls will include Timber west of Ponderosa Elementary, Spencer, a portion of Ponderosa Boulevard to Westwood and the west end of First Avenue. All the Post Falls projects are south of Interstate 90.

Next year's 3.4-mile project will include areas east of Ponderosa Elementary, including Ross Point Road and Maplewood.

A similar gas line replacement project in Coeur d'Alene is tentatively slated for 2017.

Avista is replacing Aldyl A piping manufactured by DuPont - installed in the '70s and early '80s - with a polyethylene pipe because it's not as prone to cracking as the older material. The utility does not have the vintage cast iron or bare steel piping which have captured national headlines with fatal disasters in some East Coast cities.

Avista officials said the Aldyl A piping being replaced locally is not defective, but should be replaced because the older it gets, the more prone to cracking it becomes.

"It's about safety, but it's really more about reliability," said Mike Faulkenberry, Avista's director of natural gas.

Faulkenberry said ratepayers typically pay for system upgrades, but it's too early to say how much the project will cost the average homeowner.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission regulatory agency determines whether improvement projects are prudent.

Janice Newcomb, a Post Falls resident who lives near Greensferry, said she'll be relieved when Avista's work is finished in her neighborhood.

"It's caused some delays and other hassles," she said. "I'm just glad they're working toward the finish."

Jue said Avista is trying to communicate with affected residents in different ways, including through the mail and knocking on doors, about updates on the project. Information is also available at avistautilities.com/gasprojects.

Faulkenberry said Avista is working with agencies which have road and other improvement projects planned so the jobs can be done at the same time in the same locations and lessen the impact on the public and infrastructure.

Avista plans to spend between $16 million and $17 million per year over the next 17 years to complete the line replacement project.

Know what's below

• Residents should call 811 before they dig so natural gas and other lines can be marked for free and lines aren't broken.

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