Alpine Natural Gas Project

The Alpine Natural Gas Operating Company (Alpine) has filed an application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) with the California Public Utilities Commission (Commission). Alpine specifically requests authority to construct and operate a natural gas distribution system for residential communities located in Calaveras County. By requesting a CPCN, Alpine essentially requests approval to be a utility for the targeted area of service. Therefore its application is regulated by the Commission. As required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Commission will assess the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project as a part of its decision to grant or deny Alpine's application for the CPCN.

The Commission submitted a draft Negative Declaration and Initial Study for public review between March 7 and April 7, 1997. The Commission received no written comments on the draft document, and was notified by the State Clearinghouse that no written comments on the document were filed. (Appendix C contains a summary of the State Clearinghouse letter). The Commission circulated the draft Negative Declaration and Initial Study for review to four public locations in, or in proximity to, the project area. The Commission placed a notice in a local newspaper that provided a general description of the project, the locations of the negative declaration, and where to direct comments. A direct mailing of the notice was also sent to all property owners on or under the proposed project, or adjacent thereto.


Alpine's proposed natural gas distribution project is in the unincorporated communities of La Contenta and Rancho Calaveras of Calaveras County. These subdivisions are approximately 2 miles south of the town of Valley Springs along State Highway 26 (see Appendix A for a general map of the area). The residences and businesses of La Contenta and Rancho Calaveras currently receive electric service from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) and propane gas service by maintaining individual storage tanks on their properties. Alpine states in its application that the members of the targeted communities have expressed great interest in receiving natural gas service.

Alpine has split its project into 4 phases. Phase I begins with an interconnection to an existing PG&E gas transmission line (Line 197A) that runs in an east-west direction across Highway 26 1.5 miles south of the town of Valley Springs. From the interconnection Alpine will install a gas distribution line southward along Highway 26 and proceed into the La Contenta and Rancho Calaveras communities which border Highway 26 on the east and west. (See Appendix B for a map of the four project Phases.)

Phase I is bounded by the west end of Leckie Road (northwest corner), the southward bend in St. Andrews Road (northeast corner), on Silver Rapids Road about 500 feet east from the intersection with Laurent Lane (southeast corner) and on Berkesey Drive at Heinemann Lane (southwest corner).

Phases II, III and IV are essentially the remaining streets of the Rancho Calaveras community. Phase II includes the streets connecting to Berkesey Drive on the west side of Highway 26 and from Barde Road to Baldwin Street on the east side of Highway 26. The Calaveras River is the east boundary of Phase II. Phase III has no construction planned on the west side of Highway 26 and is planned exclusively for the streets between Baldwin Street on the north to Da Lee Road on the south and bounded on the east by the Calaveras River. Phase IV of the project is the remaining residential streets that are bounded by the Jenny Lind Approach Road on the west, the Calaveras River on east, Da Lee Road on the north, and the Jenny Lind Historic Site on the south.

At this time, Alpine is proposing construction only for Phase I of the project. The extension of the project to the remaining phases is contingent upon market demand in those areas. For the purposes of CEQA, the Commission will review the environmental setting and the impacts of the entire project (all four phases). This mitigated negative declaration is intended to cover the entire project, unless otherwise noted. Footnote1 The word "project" used throughout this document is meant to include all four phases. The terms for the specific phases of the project in this document are "Phase I", "Phase II", etc.

Alpine's pipeline route begins at the interconnection with PG&E's Line 197A about half a mile north of La Contenta. A 6-inch gas distribution line will be installed from the interconnection and proceed southward along Highway 26. (Alpine proposes to trench along the west side of the highway, but a final determination of the trench position will be made by the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans.)) Regardless of the location of the trench, Alpine will need to cross Highway 26 because it intends to serve customers on both sides of the highway. Alpine anticipates that CalTrans will require it to use boring techniques to cross the highway. Alpine will cross Highway 26 at four intersections: Vista Del Lago Drive, Silver Rapids Road, Holmquist Lane and Heinemann Lane (for Phase I). From these intersections, Alpine's facilities will spread to other streets within La Contenta and Rancho Calaveras. Service to the individual customers will be provided by connecting underground pipes from the service mains in the street to the customer's meter.

For future expansion into Phases II, III and IV, Alpine anticipates leaving Highway 26 where it crosses at Silver Rapids Road. From that point, Alpine will route its service mains westward to Berkesey Drive and eventually south to Baldwin Street. The mains would eventually end near Jenny Lind. Should Alpine need to use Highway 26 for service to the additional phases, it will comply with all CalTrans permit requirements. Alpine estimates that a total of 27 miles of distribution lines will be installed for Phase I. Assuming 80% of the potential hookups in the remaining three phases desire natural gas service from the proponent, an approximate total of 40 additional miles of pipe will be installed for the remaining phases.

For more details on the project purpose, schedule, construction method and facilities, agency approvals and the environmental setting, please refer to the Initial Study attached to this Negative Declaration.


An Initial Study (attached) was prepared to assess the project's potential effects on the environment, and the respective significance of those effects. Based on the Initial Study the Alpine Natural Gas Project has the potential to cause significant adverse effects on the environment in the areas of Geological Resources, Water, Air Quality, Transportation and Circulation, Biological Resources, Hazards, Public Services and Cultural Resources. The project will have less than significant effect in other resource areas of the checklist.

In response to the Initial Study, the Commission should make the following findings and the following specific measures should be incorporated into the project to ensure that it will not have any significant adverse effects on the environment:

1. The proposed project will have less than significant effects on Land Use and Planning, Population and Housing, Energy and Mineral Resources, Noise, Utilities and Service Systems, Aesthetics and Recreation.

2. The proposed project could have potentially significant impacts on Geologic Resources due to the trenching work required for the installation of the pipeline along the road. Specifically, the project could increase mudflows or erosion to the shoulders of the road, especially if the work is done in wet weather.

To ensure that the project will not have potentially significant effects in this area, the project proponent will employ standard erosion control techniques in its construction plan, and shall cease from constructing during significantly wet weather. Alpine shall notify the Commission of its schedule for starting and ending construction of Phase I, and for all remaining phases if it chooses to expand (see Mitigation Monitoring Plan for details on filing, timing, etc.) The Commission shall have final authority to halt the project for non-compliance with the mitigation.

3. The proposed project could have potentially significant impacts on Water Resources due to the construction work over and adjacent to two creeks, the Cosgrove and Indian. Construction of the project over or adjacent to the creeks during the wet season could impact absorption, drainage and runoff. Moreover, discharges into the creeks could affect surface water quality. Construction materials and equipment over or adjacent to these resources may still create impacts during the dry season, if they are not properly secured from the entering the resource's edges or banks.

To ensure that the project will not have potentially significant effects in this area, Alpine shall install its line along side existing bridges (Cosgrove), or above man-made culverts (Indian). If it cannot fit its line above the culverts, it shall bore beneath the creek. For those sections of the project that are adjacent to or over a water resource, Alpine shall begin construction only during the dry seasons (April 1 to September 30), and will develop adequate setbacks to keep construction equipment, material and waste securely away from the resource.

Alpine shall also provide the Commission with a status report on those sections of its project that could potentially impact water resources before September 30 of each year of construction. The report shall note the sections that are completed, and shall describe in further detail (location and amount of remaining work) those sections that will not be complete by September 30. Completion of the unfinished areas shall not commence without approval from the Commission's Mitigation Monitor.

4. The proposed project could have potentially significant impacts on Air Quality due to emissions resulting from the installation of the line. While the county has no specific air regulations or standards to enforce, it does regulate visible air emissions through its public nuisance standards. Objectionable odors from the project's interconnection point at PG&E could occur if the equipment is not properly welded, inspected and tested for leaks.

To ensure that the project will not have potentially significant effects in this area, Alpine shall employ standard visible emissions control techniques such as water misting or sprinkling. It shall also employ state (General Order 112-E) and federal (Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations) safety installation standards so that leaks are averted or repaired expeditiously. Alpine shall also submit in its pre-construction notice plans, description and mitigation for its interconnection facility with PG&E.

5. The proposed project could have potentially significant impacts on Transportation and Circulation due to the installation of the pipeline along county streets, roads and State Highway 26. Alpine may, on occasion, install its lines within the roadway itself if the shoulder area is inaccessible. Work within the shoulder or within the roadway poses potential adverse effects on traffic, congestion and safety (pedestrian, bicyclist, and worker) if not managed appropriately. Parking and congestion impacts may result if Alpine does not effectively manage the transportation of its work crews.

To ensure that the project will not have potentially significant effects in this area, Alpine shall employ the management principles contained in CalTrans' Manual of Traffic Controls for Construction and Maintenance Work Zones.. Alpine shall also obtain encroachment permits from both the county and CalTrans. Alpine shall also mitigate parking and congestion impacts by instructing its personnel to gather at a temporary storage facility and then transport them collectively to the work sites.

6. The proposed project could have potentially significant impacts on Biological Resources due to the installation of the project either over or adjacent to the creeks discussed in Finding #3. These creeks are potential habitats for the California red-leg frog and pond turtles during the wet season (generally October 1 to March 31).

The mitigation discussed in Finding #3 are the same for this resource area.

7. The proposed project could have potentially significant impacts on Hazards due to the fact that natural gas systems carry an inherent risk of explosion, fire or accidental release of natural gas.

To ensure that the project will not have potentially significant effects in this area, Alpine shall install, operate, test and inspect its facilities in accordance with the Commission's General Order 112-E which governs safety of natural gas pipelines. Alpine has developed its own Safety Manual in compliance with GO 112-E. The Commission's Utility Safety Branch shall approve Alpine's Safety Manual and shall also inspect Alpine's installation and operation of the line.

8. The proposed project could have potentially significant impacts on Public Services due to the trenching and boring impacts the line will have on county roadways and State Highway 26. If not properly restored and repaved, the installation could adversely impact maintenance of these roadways and the irrigation/erosion canals on the shoulders. Moreover, CalTrans' potential realignment of Highway 26 may also cause the project's lines to be moved if they are not installed at sufficient depths. CalTrans' ongoing maintenance of highway may also be adversely impacted if the specific coordinates of Alpine's facilities are not accurately recorded and its positions marked effectively. CalTrans' maintenance crews may accidentally rupture the line if the project's location is unknown or unclear.

To ensure that the project will not have potentially significant effects in this area, Alpine shall obtain encroachment permits from the county and CalTrans for impacts to the roads. It shall also protect all existing facilities (irrigation or erosion canals) potentially impacted by the installation and shall restore all such facilities if impacts occur. This includes repaving the roadway to its original condition. Alpine shall also bury its pipeline along Highway 26 at a depth of at least 4.5 feet in order to accommodate the future realignment of the highway. Alpine will also record and provide a database of the line's coordinates and elevations along Highway 26 in addition to effectively marking the location of the line with tapes or other markers.

9. The proposed project could have potentially significant impacts on Cultural Resources due to trenching and possible boring. A comprehensive survey was conducted to determine any potential impacts to recorded or unrecorded sites. While the survey concluded that Phase I of the project had no impacts, it also noted that Calaveras County's historical background indicates potential for uncovering unrecorded historical resources. Phase IV of the project has a recorded site, Jenny Lind, which will be avoided by Alpine.

To ensure that the project will not have potentially significant effects in this area, Alpine shall provide training session(s), by a qualified professional, for its crews on the proper protocol if historical resources or human remains are uncovered during construction. Alpine shall also stop construction immediately if a historical or archaeological site is discovered or if human remains are found, and shall consult with the Commission, a qualified professional archaeologist, and the appropriate resource agencies on how to best handle the resource.

If Alpine chooses to expand its project to any of the remaining phases, it will notify the Commission and conduct a comprehensive survey of the phase prior to construction. It shall also provide detailed routes of the phase to the Commission. If the survey reveals a potential impact, Alpine shall modify its proposed route plan so that the site is avoided. The mitigation monitor shall have final approval of the routes for the remaining phases. Alpine shall also employ the on-site mitigation described above as it proceeds to install the line in any of the remaining phases.

As noted in the findings and mitigation measures, copies of all permits shall be submitted to the Commission's Mitigation Monitor twelve (12) days prior to construction. Construction shall not commence until the Commission has approved Alpine's notice of intent to construct which will include copies of all applicable permits, as well as the pre-construction information specified in the Mitigation Monitoring Plan.

With implementation of the mitigation measures listed in 1-9 above, and the directive that all other permits will be submitted upon approval, the Commission should conclude that the proposed project will not have one or more potentially significant environmental effects.

To ensure these measures are implemented, a Mitigation Monitoring Plan and Mitigation Monitoring Table are attached.


Douglas M. Long, Manager

Decision-Making Support Branch

Energy Division

California Public Utilities Commission




While the Negative Declaration covers the whole project (Phases I - IV), Alpine is required to undertake additional surveys for potential impacts to cultural resources in Phases II, III and IV (see Finding #9). Because Alpine has no plans to construct these phases at this time, it did not have specific routes for site surveys of these phases during the Initial Study.

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