MASSENA - An expansion project that has been in works for St. Lawrence Gas since the late 90s has finally broken ground, meaning natural gas service will soon be coming to a new set of customers along the Franklin and St. Lawrence County border.
This is a project that weve been trying to get off the ground since the late 90s, St. Lawrence Gas Assistant General Manager James P. Ward said.
The project, which he said could bring natural gas service to as many as 4,000 new customers, consists of 48 miles of high pressure transmission lines that will connect Norfolk to Chateaugay.
Among the first customers to connect to the new line, he said, will be St. Lawrence Central School and the North Country Dairy Plant in North Lawrence. Residential customers may also connect to the line in the future.
What I like to compare it to is the transmission line is like the trunk of a tree. Then well be branching out, he said, adding the branching out will happen more next year.
The big push with the distribution lines will be starting next summer, Mr. Ward said, adding though that some people may be able to hook up before then.
Some people will be able to hook up before this winter, he said.
Recognizing that a project of this magnitude is going to take some time, Mr. Ward said his goal is to have the transmission line running to Malone by this winter.
Mr. Ward said the project is being paid for with grants from Franklin County, an appropriation from Senator Betty Little and a grant from the Empire State Development Corporations Regional Blueprint fund. He said those grants total $6.3 million. PILOT agreements with both St. Lawrence and Franklin counties also helped make the project a reality.
The whole drive behind these grants and the PILOTs is the expansion is all about economic development and the creation and retainment of jobs in the north country, he said.
When asked how the project was finally able to come to fruition after being in the works for so long, Mr. Ward said it was a combination of finally receiving the PILOTs and having the funding available to complete the project.
The rural geography of the area also makes expansion difficult.
The rural nature of the expansion creates challenges for utilities to grow, he said.