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Pipeline Plan Sparks National Forest Concerns

PHOTO: Conservationists are concerned about the potential impact of a huge natural-gas pipeline on parts of the Monongahela and George Washington national forests, such as Laurel Creek in the GW. Photo courtesy of Wild Virginia.
PHOTO: Conservationists are concerned about the potential impact of a huge natural-gas pipeline on parts of the Monongahela and George Washington national forests, such as Laurel Creek in the GW. Photo courtesy of Wild Virginia.
September 22, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. - Conservationists are worried about plans to run a huge gas pipeline through national forests in Virginia and West Virginia. It's still in the early stages, but Dominion Transmission Inc. wants to put the 42-inch Atlantic Coast Pipeline through the Monongahela and George Washington forests. Ernie Reed, president and conservation director with Wild Virginia, says it could damage some of the most important national forest land in the eastern U.S. a huge construction project leaving a permanent, bare right of way.

"A 125-to 150-foot swath, then create a hole at least 10-feet deep and they have to be sure no trees will grow on that area," says Reed.

Dominion has not surveyed the precise route yet. The company says the pipeline is needed to bring Marcellus gas to Virginia and North Carolina. Reed says people who are concerned about the project should get in touch with the Forest Service.

Reed says the proposed paths would cut across the southern part of Shenandoah Mountain. He describes that as one of the most important and intact roadless areas in the east. Reed says the pipeline could damage the only known habitat of an endangered salamander. And he says one of the two paths could go through a small gem - a chunk of old growth that survived the clear-cutting at the beginning of the last century. Reed says that piece of forest only exists now due to a mistake.

"Because of a surveying error at the turn of the century, an old-growth forest. It looks like one of these corridors goes right by the edge of it, and may go actually right through it."

In all, Reed says the pipeline would cross five separate watersheds, and he says they're concerned about its potential impact on water quality. Wild Virginia estimates the George Washington National Forest provides drinking water to more than four million people.

Reed says in theory the national forest supervisors have the ability to stop the pipeline from going through their lands. But he says it's more likely the decision would be made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the national forests.

"Those agencies all have an ability to virtually say no to this; unfortunately the decision is likely to be made at a higher level," says Reed.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA