Pipelines to be built through North Richland Hills; park, golf courses to be affected

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- Two gas pipeline companies intend to begin work in the next two to three months to establish major gathering and transmission lines through a western section of North Richland Hills.

The construction is not likely to be noticed by many homeowners, but golfers and parkgoers might notice some disruption: The Diamond Oaks County Club golf course may close for a time, and some mature trees at Fossil Creek Park will be cut down. The two pipelines will share an easement underneath the country club and park, as well as the public Iron Horse Golf Course.

"The construction stays on a green path for most of the route, but we tried to stay on the edge of the green areas," said Brian Murnahan, a spokesman for Texas Midstream Gas Services, one of the pipeline companies.

Texas Midstream, a wholly owned subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy, and Enterprise Texas Gas Services Company expect to work on installing the two pipelines for about four months once construction begins.

It is the start of what will likely be a major year for underground pipeline expansion in North Richland Hills.

Later this year, Texas Midstream anticipates construction of a pipeline through more congested areas of the city to tie together its wells at Tarrant County College Northeast Campus and the Morrow Stevens site. One pipeline already runs from the Graham pad site southeast out of the city.

City officials are essentially powerless to regulate where the pipelines go because gas companies are considered utilities, just like Oncor and Atmos Energy, which means they have the power to condemn private property.

But John Pitstick, the city's planning director, said city officials have sought to persuade Texas Midstream and Enterprise Texas to avoid major commercial areas and prime undeveloped land and to remain sensitive to neighborhoods.

For instance, Pitstick said the city "worked to push them to the back side of the property" in the Iron Horse area north of Northeast Loop 820 because the city wants to develop some of the land into a rail station.

He said the city has also worked with the companies to use public right of way and railroads rather than the middle of neighborhoods.

"We've seen in the past that if a pipeline bisects a major property, it can be difficult to redevelop it," Pitstick said. "We've worked with them to make sure the pipelines will not go through any major areas, and we don't want them to go through nice, quiet residential neighborhoods.

"We're fairly happy with the alignment, based on our lack of control over the situation."

In the near-term, Texas Midstream will construct a 24-inch gas-gathering pipeline through western North Richland Hills, roughly from Fossil Creek Park north to Loop 820 and then veering west. Enterprise Texas will construct a 30-inch transmission line along the same route, although the lines will be several feet apart underground.

Golfers at Iron Horse are not likely to notice anything, Pitstick said, but Diamond Oaks will close at least two holes, and potentially the entire course, for a while during construction.

"If we can do it one time, instead of two, it's better for both companies," Murnahan said. "Nobody wants to have to do this two or three times."

The pipeline companies signed an agreement with the city this month for access to Fossil Creek Park and Iron Horse. The city will be paid $610,000 in licensing fees over 20 years. Additionally, the companies will pay the city $54,000 for cutting down some mature trees in the park.

"They will be using Fossil Creek Park as a staging area, so they will be taking down some trees in the eastern portion of the park," Pitstick said.

CHRIS VAUGHN, 817-390-7547