11 suits seek eminent domain in construction of pipeline|[12/01/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 1, 2007

Eleven eminent domain suits have been filed in the past eight weeks in federal courts in Louisiana and Mississippi by companies building the 270-mile Southeast Supply Header natural gas pipeline through the two states.

One filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Monroe by the company formed by Spectra Energy Corp. and CenterPoint Energy Inc. against four other limited liability companies is the most recent. In all, four firms and 24 individuals have been named in 10 suits filed in Louisiana.

One case filed in U.S. District Court in Hattiesburg names 58 people and heirs of 25 others associated with 39.5 acres in Jefferson Davis County.

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One of three gas transmission pipelines with routes through Vicksburg and Warren County expected to begin service by 2009, the SESH will transport up to 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from a CenterPoint-owned hub in northeast Louisiana to one co-owned by Spectra in Mobile.

It will cross the Mississippi River into Warren County at LeTourneau and head southeast near the Yokena community.

Diggings to lay three, 90-mile sections began in early November, said Spectra spokesman Gretchen Krueger, adding one of three planned compressor stations will be built in south Warren County.

Talks continue between the company and property owners near the Loosa Yokena archaeological site. Initial maps have the pipeline running just north of the historic site and not within a zone deemed harmful by state archeologists. The landowners differ, saying the site has yet to be explored.

Krueger said Friday a cultural artifacts expert has been hired by the company to monitor construction near the historic area.

“They will be able to tell if we’ve unearthed something significant,” Krueger said, adding eminent domain proceedings remain a last resort when dealing with landowners in any project.

In 2006, Gulf South Pipeline LP filed at least seven eminent domain suits in Warren County Chancery Court against local landowners as the company attempted to purchase easements to build the East Texas to Mississippi Expansion Project.

Four other federal cases were filed in Monroe against landowners in DeSoto Parish.

A third, proposed by Midcontinent Express Pipeline System, is being planned by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP and Energy Transfer Partners LP. A first draft of an environmental study on the project will be issued sometime in the first quarter of 2008, company spokesman Megan Mafta said.