‘Concerns’ filed with regulators

Published 3:00 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has filed concerns with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding a proposed project by Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC (ACP) and access roads crossing several streams in Augusta and Bath counties.

According to a letter dated Sept. 1 from Clyde Thompson, forest supervisor at the Monongahela National Forest, the USFS is “highly concerned” about the potential project impacts to a stream called Laurel Run, located in Bath County “from the proposed crossings of the stream by the pipeline and the access road that would be built along an existing but non-passable trail.”

The Dominion-led 600-mile pipeline project is in the environmental review stage of the federally required process.

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Thompson said the location of the proposed access road is “unacceptable because it parallels the stream channel within the riparian corridor for much of its length and has numerous stream crossings.”

If approved, the project would include a 42-inch natural gas pipeline spanning Buckingham County and crossing parts of Cumberland and Prince Edward counties. The pipeline would start in West Virginia, cross through Virginia and end in North Carolina.

“(Friends of Buckingham) is heartened by the USFS for applying applaudable scrutiny over Dominion Resources ACP’s application that proposes to cross the National Forest(s),” said Chad Oba, chair of the group, which is opposed to the pipeline. “It is their job to do so and it is our hope that all our government officials at every level of government would apply these same high standards when there is so much at stake. All commenting agencies need to be extremely careful and thorough in their examinations as the impact on human health, water, soil, wildlife, historical and cultural resources, property values and use would be so severe.”

In his letter, Thompson also said the USFS is concerned about several streams that would be crossed by the proposed pipeline and proposed access roads on National Forest Service property in Augusta County.

The project includes a 53,515 horsepower natural gas-fired compressor station along Route 56 between Shelton Store and Union Hill roads. The Buckingham County Planning Commission has set a Sept. 26 public hearing for a requested special use permit for the station.

The USFS is asking ACP to “re-evaluate its proposed stream crossings and proposed locations of access roads,” Thompson said in the letter.

Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said the company will continue working with all coordinating agencies, including the USFS, to “address concerns and minimize or avoid environmental impacts.”

According to Wild Virginia, an environmental organization opposed to the project, the USFS submitted further comments to FERC last week regarding inaccuracies, misrepresentations and omissions on Dominion’s resource reports on salamanders, macroinvertebrates, fish and mussels and soils in the national forests. In a separate letter to FERC, Thompson said Laurel Run was not surveyed for macroinvertebrates because of access issues “despite the fact the stream is accessible, as it was accessed to survey for fish and mussels.”

In a press release, Wild Virginia said Thompson’s second letter followed a July 2015 letter listing “(more than) 300 errors” submitted by Dominion. Thompson also said the USFS cannot complete its review until Dominion provides geographic information system spatial and tabula data.

Wild Virginia President Ernie Reed said this will “at the very least … push back Dominion’s timeline” to release its draft environmental impact study, originally set for December.

“Or it could be another nail in the coffin for this misguided and unnecessary project,” he said.