COOPERSTOWN — The latest alternative route for the proposed Constitution Pipeline would cut a swath through the Robert V. Riddell State Park in Otsego County — a wilderness sanctuary that the daughter of the man for whom the park is named said should be off-limits to such a project.
Patricia Riddell Kent of Oneonta told The Daily Star on Thursday that she deeded her late father’s land to the state to protect and preserve the tract that both her father and grandfather cherished and nourished.
“It would be a huge concern” if the park, straddling Interstate 88, were to be used for any part of the Constitution Pipeline, she said.
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s web site states that the Robert V. Riddell Park “offers a variety of family-friendly passive recreational opportunities. As part of an extensive statewide trail network, it is a preferred destination for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Additional activities include bird-watching, snowshoeing and fishing.”
Asked if the state agency would be issuing comments on the proposed route to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, agency spokesman Dan Keefe said: “We do have concerns. We will be submitting comments” in advance of FERC’s Oct. 9 deadline for submitting such statements on the 121-mile pipeline that would send natural gas from Susquehanna County, Pa., to the town of Wright in Schoharie County.
As to whether the state park agency has any specific rules keeping out industrial projects such as an underground interstate pipeline from the confines of a park or whether officials believe a pipeline is simply incompatible with a park setting, Keefe said: “I would say we need to do our evaluation more in-house before I speak more directly on that.”
The pathway crossing Riddell Park has been dubbed “Route M,” an alternative which would place the transmission system close to I-88 for significant stretches. FERC directed the pipeline company to come up with an alternative route using the I-88 corridor after local political leaders argued it made more sense to utilize the existing right-of-way for the highway than it did to involve privately owned parcels.
The company’s preferred route avoided I-88. A spokesman for the Constitution Pipeline project, Christopher Stockton, said Route M is “still a relatively new route” and that the project engineers have been “making modificiations to the route on a daily basis.” He said they were still gathering information about the route in question.
Retired Hartwick College geology professor David Hutchinson said he asked a representative of Williams Partners, the major investor in the pipeline project, why the engineers placed a stretch of Route M. through the Robert V. Riddell Park. He said the representative explained that the planners were utilizing an outdated map that did not show the park.
Hutchinson is a friend of Patricia Kent Riddell. The land, adjacent to Hartwick College’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus, was donated to the state in 2005. At that time, then-Gov. George Pataki hailed the donation, saying, “Securing this scenic open space ensures the continued protection of natural resources throughout the Susquehanna Valley, while increasing access to pristine parkland.”