New pipe aims to keep gas flowing in Eagle Valley |

New pipe aims to keep gas flowing in Eagle Valley

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Replacing a pipeline along Highway 6 will prevent a natural gas shortage but the project could affect traffic along the highway, Xcel Energy officials say.

“We know it will affect traffic,” company spokesman Mark Stutz said. “We’re going to do what we can to minimize the impact.”

The project between Edwards and Minturn is set to begin in May and wrap up in October. It’s not yet clear how the work affect traffic, mainly because Xcel hasn’t finalized its plans, Stutz said. Work will take place on 500-foot stretches at a time, he said. The project is planned for the skiing offseason, when both traffic and natural gas demand reach a relative low, he said.

The pipe needs to be replaced with a wider version because the demand for natural gas in Eagle County has spiked since the pipe was originally installed in the 1970s, Stutz said.

Eagle County’s population has jumped 615 percent since then, to 53,653 in 2010. That population boom has placed a greater demand on the pipeline, which primarily serves customers from Edwards to Minturn. If the company did not move ahead with the expansion, it estimates Avon, Minturn, Vail and Beaver Creek could face natural gas shortages next winter. Likewise, Summit, Grand, Lake and Chaffee counties could also experience shortages because their natural gas comes from pipes that connect to the Edwards through Minturn stretch, Stutz said.

To boost the pipeline’s capacity, Public Service Company of Colorado, an Xcel Energy Company, is replacing 8.6 miles of 6-inch, high-pressure natural gas line with a 16-inch pipe. The company is not releasing figures on how much more natural gas the project could supply to the area.

Stutz said the pipeline project will not disrupt natural gas service to customers in the area. It will also have no major impact on customer bills, he said.

Eagle County residents typically use natural gas to heat their homes and run appliances such as stoves and water heaters, Stutz said.

“It’s a very competitively priced form of heating in that area,” he said. “A lot of what you’ve seen, historically, in that area is electric heat. Depending on the given year, but generally speaking, electric heat tends to be more expensive than natural gas.”

Xcel energy has been working closely with local governments and the Colorado Department of Transportation to iron out its construction plans. The company held two public meetings on the project in Eagle County and plans more in the spring.

A CDOT contact could not be reached for comment.

Bob Narracci, county planning manager, said he expects Xcel to go through the county for a special use permit for the project. The company has not yet submitted its application, he said.

Narracci said his understanding of the pipeline is that it runs under the westbound lane of Highway 6, from Miller Ranch Road to Dowd Junction.

“Our concerns are traffic management,” he said. “How are they going to accomplish this significant amount of work while keeping traffic moving safely?”

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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