To Headwaters Master Naturalists (and all those who frequent National Forest land in Augusta County) from Sandy Greene, April 2, 2018
We have been following the permitting process for Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), with 56 miles of 42” fracked natural gas pipeline through Augusta County. The final permits from the Virginia Marine Resource Commission have been granted, and the Water Control Board has granted a conditional permit, pending the completion of stormwater and erosion control plans by the VA Department of Environmental Quality.
Timber cutting along the right of way has begun in Augusta County on private land, (including adjacent to Braley Pond and Dowell’s Ridge), and is scheduled to begin as soon as permits can be finalized in the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest. Although timber cutting was only allowed until March 15th, for protection of bird and endangered bat habitat, Dominion applied for a waiver to continue cutting timber until May 15th, which was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The pipeline path includes over a hundred stream crossings in Augusta County, with 36 of them in the Calfpasture River watershed.
As in the Monongahela National Forest, some areas and accesses of the George Washington National Forest may be closed to the public during construction. A likely regulation will be that no one may be within 200 feet of the construction right of way. We will want to observe all regulations of the National Forest, and, in addition, anyone on private land near pipeline construction should probably carry a signed permission letter from the landowner. Although you normally would have the right to be on public lands, these regulations may temporarily block access in construction areas.
Pipeline construction is being monitored for compliance with all environmental regulations by agency staff, a third party monitor, and also a citizen monitoring group: Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) which includes a “pipeline air force” of aircraft and drones, and credentialed first responders who are in contact with agencies. All of these people will also obey all laws and regulations, and the CSI volunteers also plan to present real-time documentation of any violations that cannot be ignored. To learn more about the CSI, click here.
While remaining non-political, Headwaters Master Naturalists may collect and report data in an unbiased manner. Several members have already been working with Trout Unlimited on water quality baseline data. Trout Unlimited has an excellent webinar on best management practices to control erosion and sediment. Several members have adopted sites on the VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Birding and Wildlife Trails in the George Washington National Forest which will be affected by the pipeline.
As you continue with your volunteering and enjoyment of the public lands in Augusta County, please stay educated on the pipeline project. Visiting the Augusta County Alliance website, or the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance website will help to keep you abreast of the news.
– Sandy Greene, Cohort I, April 2018
Photo at top shows ACP tree cutting just up the ridge from Braley Pond Rd. Thanks to Lynn Cameron of Friends of Shenandoah Mountain for use of the photo.