Friday, January 25, 2008

Travis Officials Say Aircraft Traffic, Jet Fuel Pipeline Don't Pose Safety Threats

Travis Officials Say Aircraft Traffic, Jet Fuel Pipeline Don't Pose Safety Threats
By Carol Bogart | Daily Republic | January 24, 2008

SUISUN CITY - Travis Air Force Base has no public safety concerns in regards to the proximity of a runway to the proposed site of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Public Affairs Chief Capt. Lindsay Logsdon confirmed Thursday.

Travis also has no safety concerns about the base's jet fuel pipeline that runs under and adjacent to the Wal-Mart site's Petersen Road border, Base Commander Col. Steven J. Arquiette wrote in a letter obtained by the Daily Republic.

Public safety concerns about the runway, which is 2.5 miles from the runway, were among the reasons cited by the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission in its Nov. 8 ruling that the project is incompatible with Travis.

Suisun City residents who are worried about the pipeline prompted the executive director of a national pipeline safety organization to write Arquiette and question him about the jet fuel pipeline's safety.

Suisun City Community Development Director Heather McCollister said Arquiette's response, dated Jan. 23, 'reaffirms all of our analysis that this project will not adversely impact the mission of the base.'

Suisun City has the right to override the airport commission's 'adverse use' decision.

The state Department of Transportation's Division of Aeronautics wrote McCollister last month to say Caltrans agrees with the airport commission's ruling, adding that if the city overrides the commission, the airport operator 'shall be immune from liability' for damages to property or personal injury if a plane from Travis crashes into Wal-Mart.

Suisun City Manager Suzanne Bragdon said the city isn't worried about a possible hike in its liability insurance rates in the event the City Council votes to override.

Opponents of the Wal-Mart project recently raised issues regarding the Travis jet fuel pipeline.

The Suisun Citizens League, led by resident Dwight Acey, is worried that heavy construction equipment and tractor-trailer rigs could compromise the integrity of the pipeline, leading to possible groundwater contamination and other public safety threats.

Their concerns prompted the letter to Arquiette from the Pipeline Safety Trust, which identified itself as being on a steering committee established by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The steering committee, the letter said, will make recommendations to Congress on 'ways to correct the breakdown in communications between pipeline operators, such as you (Travis), and local government planners that often put people at risk.

'... We understand that the military is exempt from the minimum federal pipeline safety regulations that apply to all similar pipelines,' the letter went on, 'but the military still has a duty to protect people and the environment near its pipelines.'

Arquiette responded that Travis has thoroughly reviewed the draft and final Wal-Mart EIRs, and that those reviews 'indicate the project, as depicted in the EIRs, should not interfere with the safe operations of our pipeline.' He sent a copy of his letter to the Suisun City Planning Commission.

Travis frequently examines the pipeline for 'operational integrity,' including 'regular visual inspections of the entire surface area of the pipeline route,' Arquiette added. Travis has a plan in the event of a pipeline malfunction or leak, he said.

Should the project get under way, Arquiette's letter said, 'We will work closely with Suisun City and the developer to ensure the project's construction activities and the daily operations of the Walmart (sic) store do not impede the continued safe operation of the pipeline.'

Reach Carol Bogart at 427-6955 or at

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