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Berkshire Gas Co. installing new pipeline beneath Connecticut River

The 12-inch coated steel line will extend approximately 30 to 40 feet under the riverbed from the area of Bridge Lane in Hatfield to Huntington Road in Hadley. The company is employing a method known as directional boring or drilling to feed the pipe beneath the river bed, a process that aims to minimize disturbances of environmentally sensitive areas.

“We never ever touch the riverbed,” said Chris Farrell, a Berkshire Gas spokesman. “We do not want to disturb the river and its ecosystem.”

The camera-guided drilling will take place near Huntington Road and Route 47 in Hadley, and once it is complete, crews will install the pipe between the two towns far beneath the riverbed.

The new line will connect to an existing 12-inch main on Bridge Lane in Hatfield and a 6-inch high pressure line in Hadley. The company earlier received local and federal permits, including from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to install the pipeline. State historical and environmental agencies also reviewed the project.

As Farrell explained it, the natural gas line will provide an additional gas supply to Amherst College’s cogeneration plant, which burns gas and diesel fuel, and to the University of Massachusetts’ 5-year-old central heating plant, which predominantly burns natural gas but can switch to fuel oil when gas is not available.

The new gas line will add to an existing Berkshire Gas Co. line installed along the riverbed in 1959, according to the company.

Work between Hatfield, where 1,600 feet of welded pipe is awaiting installation beneath the river, and Hadley, where a drilling rig was expected to arrive this week, is expected to last into late November. The drilling is occurring approximately 300 feet from the river and a total of 2,200 feet of pipe will be installed for the project, according to Berkshire Gas Co.

“This is just the location where it makes sense to interconnect to the town of Amherst,” Farrell said.

In addition to supplying gas to the college and university, the new pipeline will also serve as a secondary feed to Amherst, and it will enhance the company’s reliability to deliver natural gas to the town, Farrell said.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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