- Associated Press - Friday, July 29, 2016

HINESBURG, Vt. (AP) - Vermont Gas Systems announced Friday the utility has entered a land deal with Hinesburg that allows for construction in a local park on a key section of a natural gas pipeline that will run from Colchester to Addison County.

The Hinesburg Selectboard on Thursday approved the extension of the Addison Natural Gas Project through land donated to the town, now Geprags Park.

The Hinesburg section still needs approval from the state Public Service Board because of concerns about wetlands, but Vermont Gas says having a favorable agreement with the town is a “critical component.”

Some have expressed concerns the pipeline will disrupt bird habitat in the park, hurt wetlands and violate the agreement that created the park, which called for recreational and educational usage.

An important part of the agreement is the utility’s use of horizontal drilling, which is said to have less impact on surface lands.

Vermont Gas officials say the Hinesburg plot was the last remaining parcel needed to secure full access to the project’s right of way. The pipeline is currently under construction and will extend 41 miles between Colchester and the county.

“This agreement brings important value to the town and allows the company to move forward with construction in Geprags,” Vermont Gas said in a statement.

The town will receive $250,000 in the deal and Vermont Gas will be required to get a performance bond, which will guarantee the work will be completed.

Hinesburg Conservation Committee member Robert Hyams described the agreement as much better than one the board offered in December.

“Lots of hard work and a lot of respectful debate,” Selectboard Chairman Michael Bissonette said of the work leading up to the compromise.

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