FORT WORTH — After two years of discussion and $25,000 in federal grants, the Fort Worth City Council is expected to approve a plan for the city to put together its own comprehensive gas pipeline maps.
With the rapid expansion of drilling and pumping in the Barnett Shale, natural gas lines create a web throughout Fort Worth. They run under busy intersections; pipelines hide in city parks and some bridge waterways to make their connections.
Until now, the city has relied on the Texas Railroad Commission for maps that may or may not have the most up-to-date information.
"Now when we get a report from the company that lays a gas line, we are able to put this on our footprint, and we'll be able to tell what's there – quicker," said city spokesman Bill Begley.
The Fort Worth City Council is expected to approve a plan for new gas line maps at Tuesday's meeting.
The civil engineering firm that will lead the project, Pacheco Koch, said it involves merging GPS technology, gas company maps and the city's own records for gas well leases and easements to better pinpoint where the lines are hiding.
Libby Willis is the president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods. She has been pushing for comprehensive mapping for more than two years. The efforts included a 36-page report that showed the dangers of high pressure gas lines in residential areas.
"The more we know about how large the diameters are of any given pipeline and what the pressure is — the maximum allowed operating pressure — that's just basic information that we have to have," Willis said.
The League of Neighborhoods’ report showed excavation accidents caused more than 40 percent of the pipeline ruptures in Texas.
State law puts the Texas Railroad Commission in charge of pipeline safety, so Fort Worth won't call the new maps a "safety measure." But planners say marking and plotting gas lines can only protect developers, homeowners, and city employees from making potentially dangerous mistakes.
Once the mapping process starts, the city expects the first public maps to be available in the next 18 months.