Haynesville Shale brings pipeliner population boom

By Carolyn Roy – bio|email|Twitter

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – There's a new "boom" coming out of the Haynesville Shale. Two years ago, it was leasing, part of the first phase of this massive natural gas play, followed by lots of drilling. That is expected to continue for years, and pipeline will be critical to getting it to market.   That means a lot of pipeline has to be laid, and a lot of workers are needed to do it.

In the past couple of weeks, things have really picked up with the start of construction of the Tiger Pipeline Expansion.  The 42-inch interstate line will run 175 miles across Louisiana, from Carthage, Texas and into Mississippi.  It's expected to be completed and online by the end of 2011, and bring thousands of workers to the region in the process.

They all have to stay somewhere, but the long-term yet temporary nature of the business doesn't lend itself to buying or building houses. Renting isn't especially cost-effective, convenient or available, either. So mobile home and RV parks are filling up fast. "It just went crazy," says Pinecrest Mobile Home Village manager Lynn Arnold, "People that's looking for RV sites just pourin' in here.  Can't find 'em anywhere in Shreveport."  Arnold says they used to have about 350 tenants in the 86.5 acre park, and only 15 or so were RVs. "I don't know how many we've got.  I haven't counted, we probably got 40 to 50 in here now."  He says he's fitting them in where ever he can find the space. "I'm starting to take some of our lots that are too small for mobile homes, setting 'em up for RVs and I can't get 'em ready quick enough, they're just comin' in so fast."

Welding inspector James White has been staying at Tall Pines since March, a few months ahead of the latest wave of workers looking for a temporary homestead.  "I got lucky," White says, because now, "It's a little tough finding a spot."

Cassie Ellis knows. "Everybody has a waiting list about a mile long."  Her husband works in the oil and gas fields.  "We had to come down here two weeks before he went to work to find us a spot and we went to three different ones and they were all full until we found one."  They finally did find a spot at the Southern Living RV Park in Greenwood.  It's only been open since the end of January, but owner Ronnie Duncan says he's already at capacity, just catering to tenants in the oil and gas industry.  "I'd say 80% are pipeliners," Duncan says.  "I opened it just for investment, stumbled into the pipelines world I was not even aware of."  He's even taken some of his larger 100' lots and split them to squeeze more in.

But not everyone is welcoming these long-term tenants.  Tom Landers says his family-owned Tall Pines RV Park on West 70th Street in Shreveport gets dozens of calls a day from "pipeliners" looking for long-term lots to lease.  They turn the majority of them away.  "We began as an RV park and we want to stay as an RV park," Landers says.  He's worried about the long-term impact the "pipeliner" population boom could have on his short-term bread and butter: travelers who stay only a few nights, check out the local attractions and restaurants, and move on.  "The pipeline industry to me is really short term. Three to five years.  They make it sound like that's a big thing.  I am here for the long haul: twenty years. So six years from now I want the same people coming back to me," Landers explains, instead of losing all "the ones who say 'I'm not gonna go through Shreveport because they never have the space available.'" 

So far, Larkin's not hurting for business.  As the only exclusively travelers' game in town, Tall Pines is one RV park full of happy "short-term" campers.   

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