The sounds of buzzing chainsaws echoed through the hills around Raystown Lake on Thursday afternoon as contractors for Sunoco Logistics cleared trees to make way for the new Mariner East 2 project.
The 8,300-acre lake in Huntingdon County is a popular spot for swimming, boating, hiking and mountain biking. It draws about 1.5 million visitors annually.
Kathy Criswell, of Huntingdon was walking her dog on the unseasonably warm day and remarked on all the noise.
“We come out to the lake often – either walking, on the boat,” she says. “I don’t know a ton about the pipeline, but it is disappointing to see the number of trees that had to be cut down for it.”
Sunoco began the work on Tuesday. The company has a compressed timeline to avoid restrictions around disrupting Indiana bat habitats, so the trees must be cleared by March 31.
The 350-mile Mariner East 2 project will bring natural gas liquids from western Pennsylvania across 17 counties to Sunoco’s Marcus Hook plant outside Philadelphia, where they will be exported for use in the European plastics industry.
The project recently received water-crossing permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The line will run under Raystown Lake next to several other existing pipelines.
Matt Price, executive director of Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau, says he hasn’t heard many complaints about the disruptions the project could have on recreation.
“As I understand it, even the trail impacts for the Allegrippis Trail, which is world-renowned for mountain biking, will be minimized,” he says. “They’ll treat it like road construction, so they have flag people. If they can’t complete the work in one day, they plan to put metal grating so bikers or hikers can over.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says work will pause in May to avoid disruptions during the summer tourism season.
“Seven Points Recreation Area will remain open to the public, and restrictions on construction or equipment operations will be dependent upon minimizing impacts to those recreating,” the Corps said in a statement. “A secondary and final construction phase will resume after Labor Day, once peak recreation season has concluded.”
Some still worry it could negatively impact tourism.
Resident Ellen Gerhart is currently in court with Sunoco over its efforts to use eminent domain to run the pipeline through her nearby property.
“There are people that come out here – this is their summer place to go,” she says. “Tourism is one of the biggest industries in Huntingdon County.”