October 01, 2008

Oregon LNG pipeline and the Wahle vineyard

Things are tense out in certain parts of Yamhill county. Drive around and you'll see plenty of "No LNG" signs. They refer to the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas pipeline slated to run from a provisionally approved LNG terminal on the Columbia river south through some key vineyard land in the heart of Oregon wine country.

Many vineyards could be impacted, depending on the route or routes chosen for the pipeline. One path would go right through Ken Wright's vineyard to be planted imminently on Withycombe Road. Another route focused on the Blackburn Road area would take out Stag Hollow's best south slope, and much of the historic Wahle vineyard. If you're interested in the land around places like Yamhill and Carlton, check out this pipeline map.

Yes, I've bought grapes from Wahle and hope to again in the future. Perhaps I have a conflict of interest here. I want to buy grapes from Wahle. So I'm sympathetic, right? But think about it. How can I buy if the majority of this vineyard might be torn out -- including the prime 35 year old Pommard block?

I don't want to see this vineyard ruined to accommodate an unnecessary conduit for natural gas from Russia, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Iran, brought around the world to heat US homes when we apparently have some of the largest sources of natural gas on the planet. I'm a gloabally focused guy. I have no personal issues with individuals in those countries. But I sure as hell don't want their governments benefiting from us tearing out some of our most prized agricultural assets here at home. Let's not even get started about alternative energy.

You see, once the pipeline goes in, there's no planting vines on top of it. Building the pipeline would apparently require a construction zone at least 45 feet wide, with some plans showing the line traversing land diagonally. That greatly increases the impact of construction, and according to Betty Wahle, there's no planting on top of the pipeline once it's in. She's facing the loss of a major portion of her vineyard, its past and future. There are many more in the area facing the same fate.

The other day, I went out to the vineyard to be there among a small group meeting Yamhill county commissioners and local press touring impacted sites and hearing from people concerned about the looming impact of the LNG project. The case was made, and the commissioners now have an opportunity to interrupt the project, as all county boards apparently have. It seems the final say will come from the governor, Ted Kulongoski. So if you're inclined, bug him about it.

And in the interest of fair and balanced reporting (someone's got to do it), read about Oregon Pipeline here. Notice they never mention where the gas comes from. And read No LNG Oregon First here. Sure, they're excited. But shouldn't they be?

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