Negotiations for the route of the Millennium Pipeline's last two miles are steadily proceeding, prompting a Millennium spokesman to express his "optimistic hope" that they could be concluded by the end of April. Agreement on the final segment in Mount Vernon, N.Y., would clear the way for the company to begin buying right-of-way along the 442-mile route, aiming for construction start in 2003.

(Illustration by Guy Lawrence for ENR)

The natural-gas pipeline project, which runs from the boundary with Canada under Lake Erie to terminate in Mount Vernon, just north of New York City, won Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval for construction last December.

But the approval was conditioned on successful negotiation within 60 days of a route through Mount Vernon to the interconnection with Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc.'s high-pressure system. With landowners and political leaders expressing vehement opposition, that condition seemed to many observers to be the pipeline's kiss of death. But with negotiations showing promise, FERC issued a two-week extension of the deadline in February followed by a 30-day extension in March. Since April 4, the end of the second extension, FERC has permitted extensions "day by day," says Jim Albitz, spokesman in the Binghamton, N.Y., office of Columbia Gas Transmission Corp., the $650-million pipeline's chief sponsor and operator.

The engineering for the 24- and 36-in. pipeline was completed in 1999 by Fluor Daniel-Williams Brothers. Concluding of negotiations for the final segment will be followed by purchase of right-of-way, lasting about a year, says Albitz. Construction contracts have not yet been announced.