Major western Nevada pipeline on the horizon |

Major western Nevada pipeline on the horizon

by Geoff Dornan
The Project area for the pipeline.
Courtesy |

Paiute Pipeline, the company that feeds western Nevada’s natural gas needs, is getting ready for an $18 million project to expand its capacity in Western Nevada.

Mark Litwin, vice president and general manager of Paiute Pipeline, said the existing system will be expanded and upgraded to provide service to the growing needs all the way from South Lake Tahoe through Douglas, Carson and Lyon counties.

Paiute builds, maintains and operates the pipe system that brings natural gas all the way from the Idaho-Nevada border to Reno and the rest of Western Nevada. In total, the company operates 895 miles of pipe from Idaho, through Elko, Winnemucca, Lovelock and Wadsworth before it splits to provide gas to both Reno and Carson City, north and south Lake Tahoe, Minden and Gardnerville.

Its biggest customers are Southwest Gas, which owns Paiute, and Sierra Pacific Power Co. But Litwin said they also serve a variety of “end users” including major mines like Newmont and the casinos in the Tahoe Basin.

“We cover a lot of ground in Northern Nevada,” he said.

The project set to start next summer will either install new pipe or up-size existing lines throughout the area. He expects the work will start in June and be complete by November.

But Litwin said the project won’t, for the most part, inconvenience residents or businesses.

“There are no planned interruptions of service,” he said.

Litwin said their contractors will work with local officials all the way from Tahoe through Douglas, Carson and Lyon counties to ensure there are no problems.

“All of our stuff is underground,” he said. “They won’t see anything generally as a result of this project.”

He said since most of the work will be in Paiute’s existing rights of way, there are only two places where there may be traffic issues.

One will be on Kingsbury Grade where workers will have to cut the highway to install new pipe. That work will force some lane restrictions but will mostly be done at night. The new 12-inch diameter pipe will increase capacity in the South Lake Tahoe area.

In addition, they have to run pipe under Highway 50 near where the V&T Railroad terminates at the Carson/Lyon County line east of the capital. Again, Litwin said, there will be lane restrictions but mostly at night.

“Otherwise, everything, I think, is far enough off the road that there are not going to be any travel restrictions,” he said.

He said Southwest Gas and Sierra Pacific are the primary drivers of the expansion project because of what they expect to see in economic growth in Western Nevada. He said when they see an increase in people and business coming to Nevada, “then Southwest Gas has to respond by acquiring additional capacity.” And that task falls to Paiute Pipeline.

Business leaders are predicting continued economic growth not only in the Minden/Gardnerville area but the capital and, with the newly opened USA Parkway, in the Dayton corridor. And that means continued residential growth as the population expands.

Litwin said the project is driven by what the major utilities see coming.

“From Southwest Gas’s perspective, that’s the increase they need to serve their customers,” he said.

The first segment will be on the west side of the Carson River Valley between Foothill Road and Kingsbury Grade. It will consist of just under a half mile of new 12-inch pipe paralleling the existing 8-inch pipe. A 12-inch pipe can carry about double what the 8-inch pipe can handle.

Segment two is right in the capital along Fairview Drive and South Edmonds just south of East 5th Street. That part of the project will replace just more than 1.5 miles of 8-inch pipe with 12-inch pipe — a total of 8,300 feet of pipe.

The third segment will be in the Dayton corridor between Empire and Mound House. It consists of 2.34 miles along the existing lateral – some 12,400 feet of new pipe laid alongside the existing pipe.

The final segment is on the northern edge of the Virginia Range west of Highway 50 some 2.5 miles southwest of Fernley. The largest part of the project, it will install 4.17 miles of new 20-inch diameter pipe parallel to the existing 16-inch pipe.

Litwin said for the most part, the existing pipes will remain in service even though some of them were installed in the 1960s. The pipes are made of steel and durable.

He said the company has filed its plans with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including the necessary environmental assessments.

He said they have to evaluate a wide range of things, everything from geology to soils, wetlands, water resources, wildlife, endangered species, cultural artifacts, air and noise pollution.