The Cost of Horizontal Directional Drilling

Horizontal Directional Drilling, or HDD, is sold by pipeline companies as a panacea for a host of problems with pipeline routes.  Usually natural gas pipelines are built by trenching down in the ground 6-9 feet deep, then covering up the pipe once it’s installed.  HDD involves drilling a bore hole under ground instead, and then either pulling or pushing the pipe through that.  The upside is there’s no trench and no need to clear cut.  The downside is that it’s often very difficult to do, its success depends upon geology, and when it fails it can be very, very bad indeed.  Plus, there is a very large construction impact at the entry/exit points where the HDD enters/exits the ground.

One such spot is Carla Kelly-Mackey’s farm on Sanford Road in Delaware Township.  Carla is a member of HALT PennEast, and has been staunchly against the project from the beginning.  As route change after route change has come it has danced slightly all around her farm.  With the most recent route change, her front door is now proposed to be home to an HDD construction pad.

Here are the latest plans for her farm:


As you can see, they plan on using her driveway as a construction access road, and then staging the HDD site across her driveway and in her front yard.  Here’s what it looks like in Google Earth:


I used the Google Earth measuring tool to check the distance from the construction zone to her house – as you can see it’s less than 50 feet!

The “road” they’ll be using:


Now what will all this HDD construction look like?  We don’t know for sure yet, but here’s a sample of a 36″ pipe being HDD’d down in Florida:

In that case of that project, the construction crew worked 24/7 to get the job done (it was blocking a freeway express ramp). Working non stop day and night it took 10 days to complete the HDD installation. They used something called a “300-ton Herrenknecht Pipe Thruster” to get the job done.  Hopefully PennEast will not be banging on that pipe in three in the morning, so who knows how long this job will take?  According to the HDD plans they will be boring and pushing/pulling for around half a mile…..

Imagine THAT in your driveway and 50 feet from your front door.

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Another Disastrous Access Road

Earlier in the week the disastrous access road proposed to connect to Stymiest Street in West Amwell was described.  There PennEast proposed to build a temporary construction road charging straight up the mountain and cause severe runoff and erosion issues.  Not to mention it was connecting to a tiny one lane gravel road that in turns connects to tiny Quarry Street in Lambertville.

But that isn’t the worst one proposed.  Oh no, there are more!  Over in Delaware Township, the plans have changed around Lower Creek Road from open trenching to a Horizontal Directional Drilling “solution”.  These are sold as being much better for the environment (a claim many dispute, but that’s the topic of another story).  In this case, the HDD proposal means they need large staging sites on either side of where they intend to drill.  South of Lower Creek Road they propose a staging site on a neighboring farm of T.C. and Joe Buchanan.  And to get there, they propose to use their driveway as a construction road.  Yes, that’s right.  Here are the plans:


That dark gray wavvy line is the proposed road. You can see it snaking between the farm houses and buildings on the farm, then running along the pipeline route and terminating at the HDD staging site.

Here’s a google earth map showing the same area:


As you can see from the plans and the pictures, what they are proposing is to go up T.C. and Joe’s existing gravel driveway.  Here’s what that driveway looks like:


This is a typical country farm one-lane driveway.  They’re going to expand this to be 50′ wide, taking out trees on both sides.  Look back at the plans, and you’ll see it running within about 10′ of their farm house.  It runs right across their fields, making them useless.

The HDD itself goes down about 80′ – right at the level of everyone’s wells in the area.  TC tells me it’s going right through some wells.

Imagine having machinery like this lumbering 10′ away from your house:

As a final insult, all this information came out AFTER the DEIS was issued.  So TC and Joe don’t even have an opportunity to comment or object in the official process.

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Improved Map for September 2016 Route Changes

Every time PennEast releases a set of maps, they do it differently.  Every. Single. Time.  The result is that we see a very inconsistent view of the route over time, and it is frankly frustrating as hell.

The map I published a few days ago was the first to include construction work spaces, and also the actual Right-of-Way.  In that respect it was a big improvement.  But it lacked the center line, mile markers, and the 400′ “study corridor” mandated by FERC.

Fortunately (?), PennEast has been sharing different versions of their maps with different parties. In particular, the general public was given one set of maps (the one I distributed), and then municipalities were given a different map.  I was able to combine the best features of both into a new map that is greatly improved.  The links here and have been updated with the new map.  Here it is:

The map features include:

  • All features are made semi-transparent so you can see what’s underneath them
  • Pipeline centerline
  • Permanent Right-of-Way
  • Mile markers (clickable yellow dots)
  • Construction areas (cyan)
  • 400′ study corridor (shaded pink)
  • Permanent above ground features (compressor stations, launchers, etc)

A sample is shown below:


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Map: Baldpate Access Road

Yet another access road planned for PennEast.  This one goes from Pleasant Valley Road onto their site on Baldpate Mountain.


The access road is the dark grey path on the upper left of the map snaking up to the pipeline construction area.

Note that the picked one of the steepest possible slopes for this road.  Here’s approximately where it is on Google Earth with 3D terrain turned on:


As you can see, the proposed access road goes up the side of the mountain and then back down to get to the pipeline construction area.  This is the second steepest slope on Baldpate that I can see, and PennEast seems to have made it deliberately as awful as possible.

And this is on top of the existing impacts we knew about.  Here’s a direct overhead shot of the site:


You can see all of those construction work spaces digging into the existing old growth trees, and then the helpful access road to make it even worse.

As a final note, I’ll show what Fairfax Hutter dubbed the Baldpate “Mohawk”.  The so called “colocation”, that really isn’t.  In this case, the pipeline has to be sited far enough from the high voltage lines that the construction is in an entirely new corridor on Baldpate, with a thin area of trees between the power lines and PennEast e.g. the Mohawk.


My son might think this is cool, but pretty much everyone else is going to hate this.

Maps: Route differences and HDD Impacts in PA

This post shows the differences between the February 2016 route and the September 2016 route, and also the new HDD site impacts from the September 2016 route.

This post covers PA.  There was also one for NJ.  I’ll also be covering access road impacts in a separate post as well.

In these posts the bright pink line with the milepost numbers is the February 2016 route. In some cases we include the 400′ survey corridor for that as well.

The new September 2016 route shows the actual ROW in faded pink and orange, and temporary work spaces in cyan.

PA Red Bridge Road


PA Hexenkopf Road

A large change near hexenkopf


PA Route 33 additional workspaces for HDD

More workspace for HDD south of the shopping center.


PA Route 33 Lowes Shopping Center HDD

The HDD entry/exit in the Lowes Shopping Center parking lot.


PA Daniels Road

Route moved closer to houses


PA Move 50′ West of Golf course


PA Change across Dannersville Road


PA Change across West Beersville Road


PA Change Cottonwood Road

Route expanded to cut more trees


PA Appalachian Trail HDD

A very large change by the Appalachian Trail.  They are now doing a very small HDD under the trail itself, but with the corresponding large HDD site impacts at entry/exit.  Plus far more extensive tree cutting to accommodate this route.


PA Blue Mountain “Easy out” area


PA Blue Mountain Trail Area change


PA Lower Smith Gap Road

A very large change moving the route over a thousand feet north on the other side of Lower Smith Gap Road.


PA Beltzville Lake HDD Impact


PA Lovitt Road extensive new construction areas for HDD support


PA Hatchery Road Major Change

A major change near Hatchery Road to try to bring the pipeline within a utility easement.  What it’s doing is actually widening an existing 200′ wide cut to 250′ wide.  And now, instead of going through a valley, it is going up and down the mountains on steep slopes.


PA Kidder Compressor Site


PA Route 2020 Changes


PA Shantyroad Road Quarry major changes


PA Auburn and Leidy Interconnects

Change for the interconnects into the UGI Auburn gathering system and the Transco Leidy line. The Leidy line is the one PennEast says doesn’t exist!



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Maps: Route differences and HDD Impacts in NJ


This post shows the differences between the February 2016 route and the September 2016 route, and also the new HDD site impacts from the September 2016 route.

This post covers NJ.  There will be a followup for PA.  I’ll also be covering access road impacts in a separate post as well.

In these posts the bright pink line with the milepost numbers is the February 2016 route. In some cases we include the 400′ survey corridor for that as well.

The new September 2016 route shows the actual ROW in faded pink and orange, and temporary work spaces in cyan.

Hopewell NJ Scotch Road HDD Site Impact

This shows the HDD setup site south of 546 near Scotch Road.  These HDD impact pictures show you that HDD isn’t “free”.  There’s an impact in large setup spaces that are clear cut.


Hopewell NJ Scotch Road HDD Site Impact 2

The other end of the impacts.


Hopewell NJ Bear Tavern Road change

The route is moved slightly south.


Hopewell NJ Baldpate Mountain HDD site impact

They’re going to clearcut that big cyan square for the HDD under Pleasant Valley Road/Moores Creek.


Hopewell NJ Baldpate HDD Impact 2

This is the other end of the Baldpate HDD site, in the middle of wetlands.


West Amwell NJ Old Route 518 Change

Here the route is shifts to the East about 150 feet on the southern portion of the map, and 50′ to the west on the top portion.  This helps PennEast impact two houses more directly, and also causes maximal tree cutting damage in the area.


West Amwell NJ Suez water site

The route is shifted approximately 50′ to the west here, resulting in even more tree cutting on steep slopes and wetlands impacts.  At least it’s a little further from the Swan Creek Reservoir dam.  It also appears to still cut the water pipe.


West Amwell NJ Route 179

The route is now about 150′ east of the previous one


Delaware Township NJ Brockville Hollow Road HDD Site

This documents the new HDD entry/exit point for the Brockville Hollow site and associated route change.


Delaware Township NJ Lower Creek Road HDD Site  Impact

Another new HDD site, this one is Lower Creek Road.


Delaware Township NJ Rosemont Ringoes Road HDD Impact

The other end of the HDD site from above and associated route change.


Delaware Township NJ Sanford Road HDD Site

A huge impact from HDD entry/exit on a farm house on Sanford Road.


Delaware Township NJ Hewitt Road HDD Impact

The other end of the above HDD work.


Kingwood Township NJ South of Featherbed Lane HDD Impact

Site impact in cyan below Featherbed Lane.


Kingwood NJ Kingwood Lockdown Road new Impacts

Huge construction zone taking out trees south of Kingwood Lockdown Road.


Kingwood NJ North o Kingwood Lockdown Road HDD Impact

Impact site from HDD entry/exit and associated route change


Kingwood NJ Kingwood Road/519 HDD site impact

Another HDD site impact


Holland Township NJ  Milford Warren Glen Road/519 HDD Site Impact

New HDD and associated route change


Holland NJ Reigelsville Milford Road

Route 75′-100′ north of previous route


Holland NJ Route 627 Route variation

One of the biggest changes in NJ, the route has moved North about 1,300 feet.  PennEast keeps waffling between these routes here.  It is clear there is NO good route through this very sensitive and difficult area and PennEast’s constant waffling indicates this.

It also shows PennEast’s statements of “no new landowners” are impacted is false.  The route here is completely different from the prior one.


Holland NJ Gilbert and Elizabethtown Interconnect Closeup

A closeup of the Gilbert generating plant area.  The lateral is now completely different from the previous one.


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More info on the Stymiest Access Road

Since I wrote the entry on the proposed access road connecting to Stymiest Road, I’ve received a bunch of emails and also had a chance to check out the site myself.

Here’s the construction map to refresh people’s memories.


As it turns out this is one of those dual-named roads that runs between West Amwell and Lambertville.  It looks like in West Amwell the road was renamed in honor of a previous Police Chief for the township. Searches for his name in the township reveal the obituary of his wife, who was listed as living on “Old Rock Road” in West Amwell.

The Lambertville side is called simply “Rock Road”.

I took a drive up there today to see what it was like, here is how far I went, and then took pictures coming back down.


And here’s what the road looks like up there:


As you can see the road is all gravel and a narrow single lane, it terminates at this house.

Going back down you can see a moderate slope, and there are many twists and turns (it twists to try to stay on a rough ridge line trending down).


Coming down near the bottom you see a sharp turn to the left and a warning of a “one lane bridge”.


Turning the corner you do indeed see a very narrow two lane stone bridge, shored up with some modern steel.


If you turn around from where I’m standing here you’ll see a sign.  This is a sign that  Sean Pfeiffer of West Amwell emailed me about.  You see, this isn’t just any tiny road named after a former police chief from the 1980’s.  It has some history somewhat older than that as well.


The sign reads:

In 1778, during the Revolution, the Township of West Amwell had the colonial road used by The Grand Continental Army under the command of General George Washington enroute to the battle at Monmouth NJ.  This section of the Bungtown Road is in its original untouched condition.

As it turns out, the Bungtown Road was a big deal for Lambertville and the region:

There is a notice about this book in the West Amwell Township committee meeting minutes from 2015:

John and Barbara Hencheck apprised the Committee of the availability of their limited edition book The Road Along the Rocks 1758: “The Bungtown Road.” Closed in 1872, this long abandoned road, located in West Amwell Township, is most likely the most historical road in the nation, per their research. The cavaliered stone wall uncovered along the roadway is second to none in its construction and was most likely built around the time of the French and Indian War and the Field Barracks in Trenton. The importance of the peach crop to the local economy, with the transport of the resultant product–barreled distilled spirits–over this portion of road to the Raritan River, as well as the use the road during the Revolutionary War by notables of that time period, including those who marched to the Monmouth battlefield, was briefly overviewed. This road is a candidate for the U.S. National Historic Landmarks program. The Committee requested that a note be placed on the website concerning the book’s availability.

So this is where PennEast wishes to build an access road.  Connecting to a tiny one land gravel road on sloped land and many twists and turns, with a minuscule one lane bridge at the entrance to it, and which is part of what one historian calls “the most historical road in the nation”.

And then connecting down onto nearly as small Quarry Road:


Imagine earth movers, huge trucks carrying 50′ lengths of 36″ pipe, and support vehicles all moving through this area.

Now perhaps you have an idea why so many people think so little of PennEast.

September 2016 Route Map Now Available

The September 2016 route changes are now available for viewing in Google Earth:

Note that this route map is hard to see when zoomed fully out. Zoom in to your area to see the actual impacts.

This map is a little different from the ones PennEast has published before (of course).  This one does not have mile markers on it, but it does show the exact impacts from the pipeline and its construction.  The picture below shows a sample of what the new maps look like:


The orangey-beige line in the center is what PennEast is calling the “operational” right-of-way for the pipeline.  This is what they will keep clear-cut forever, and varies from 35′ to 50′.

The yellow area outside of that is the “legal” right of way.  This is the 50′ area centered over the pipeline.

The blue areas show the “temporary construction” areas.  These will also be clear-cut of trees.  This is the first time they’ve put the temporary construction areas into an easily used Google-map form for people to look at (note: after the DEIS comment period, of course!).

Areas that show no blue temporary construction zones are areas where horizontal directional drilling (HDD) will be employed.  In those areas there is no digging down from the top, instead they will be drilling underneath the land.  Note: while HDD minimizes impacts where it goes under, the entry/exit points for HDD are typically huge and have very large impacts.  Here’s a sample near Brockville Hollow Road where a new HDD proposal is in place:


Here you can see a big blue rectangle in the middle of the screen and then no more blue below it – the rectangle is the HDD entry/exit staging area.

Above ground facilities are also shown, these are shown in dark blue outlines.  See below for an example:

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 10.53.46 AM.png

This sample is from the terminus of the pipeline route in Pennington.  These are the Transco interconnect and Transco receiver site.

If you have any questions or issues with the maps please don’t hesitate to email

The map links on this site and on have also been updated.

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Maps: A new access road from Lambertville

Part of the September 23rd data dump from PennEast about the new route variations included more details on proposed access roads to the pipeline construction areas.  These are new roads that are built in places where public roads are not within a certain distance of the construction (I believe this is around 1/2-1 mile or so).

Lambertville and West Amwell get to see a new one: a new access road proposed to connect to Stymiest Street in Lambertville.  If you never heard of it, don’t feel bad, I had to look it up too.  It appears to be more of a driveway than an access road.

Here is PennEast’s proposed construction map:


The new access road is the dark grey area near the middle, connecting Stymiest with the pipeline route.

Those concentric wavy  sort of lines you see on the map are called contour lines – they depict changes in elevation. As you can see, not only does the pipeline construction cross a lot of contour lines, so does the new access road.  And no, PennEast doesn’t believe in switchbacks either – the road charges right up the hillside.

In addition to additional new erosion issues that this will cause, this is also going to be a nasty traffic issue for Lambertville as well. Here is a map of the larger area:


This map shows the Swan Creek Reservoir, Stymiest street in the middle, and where it connects into Quarry Street/Rocktown Lambertville Road.

Anyone who lives in the area knows what Quarry Street looks like – two cars typically can’t comfortably pass each other on most of it. There’s the google Street View look at it above.  Imagine a 20 ton pipe truck going over that speed hump in front of the house!  Imagine trying to get to the West Amwell municipal building on the connecting road!.

Imagine massive construction vehicles regularly traveling these roads.

The impacts to Lambertville and West Amwell both are going to be enormous. But they won’t be known in detail until 2017 – sometime AFTER PennEast expects approval from FERC and receive eminent domain authority.