Fenwick Island Officials Explore Natural Gas Line Expansion

FENWICK ISLAND – A proposal to send out survey letters regarding the expansion of a natural gas line into Fenwick Island will advance to the town council with a favorable recommendation from a resort committee.

Last week, members of the Fenwick Island Infrastructure Committee met with Chesapeake Utilities representatives to discuss possible natural gas distribution in town.

Chesapeake Utilities’ Dave Detrick told committee members last week the company was currently working on an extension project to bring an eight-inch pipe down Route 54 and into Ocean City. As part of that project, officials are seeking the town’s interest in expanding the line into Fenwick.

“That’s what brings us here,” he said. “We’re on our way and we just want to open a dialogue with the town about what it would take to get gas into the town.”

Officials say the Delaware Public Service Commission requires Chesapeake Utilities to conduct a survey of the town’s residents. If the extension project proceeds, representatives report construction would start at Route 54 and work north.

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“We are required to demonstrate through an economic model that any construction that we undertake to extend a main will be justified by the commitments we get to connect,” Detrick said.

To that end, representatives told committee members last week they were seeking permission to send out a survey letter.

“When it comes time, if we get a favorable recommendation to go to the mayor and council, we’d be requesting permission to send out a survey letter to every single property owner …,” said Chesapeake Utilities’ Steve Ashcraft. “We would get a lot better idea of what’s what as far as the possibilities of extending the main.”

Officials said a gas line extension would not only reduce the number of propane tanks in town, but would help cut down on tank deliveries, emissions and consumer costs. They noted, however, that the project would require a franchise agreement between Chesapeake Utilities and the town.

“That’s a process we’d have to go through,” Ashcraft said.

Representatives noted a potential extension project could be constructed in phases, as the town completes other infrastructure improvements.

“We’d like to see what your plans are each season, from fall through spring …,” Ashcraft explained. “In an ad hoc situation like this, it would be an invaluable tool for us to work together each year on a case-by-case basis.”

Chesapeake Utilities representatives told committee members last week they are first seeking the town’s approval to complete the community survey, which would give the company access to the town’s mailing list and letterhead.

“We’re basically looking to make a recommendation to council as to whether to go forward with the town survey at this point,” said Councilman Richard Benn, committee chair. “They are showing us there are potential benefits to the town, as well as disruptions to the town.”

After further discussion, a motion to recommend that the town council proceed with the community survey at no cost to Fenwick Island passed unanimously.

“We would love everyone to weigh in, whether they are interested or not,” said Detrick. “A no is as useful information as a yes. There would never be an obligation for anyone to connect, but there would be a requirement for the number of connections or consumption to fund a particular extension.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.