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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

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - Conservationists are worried about plans to run a huge gas pipeline through national forests in West Virginia and Virginia. It's still in the early stages, but Dominion Transmission, Inc., a provider of gas transportation and storage services, wants to put the 42-inch Atlantic Coast Pipeline through the Monongahela and George Washington Forests. Beth Little of Pocahontas County, is a member of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. She says it could damage some of the most important national forest land in the eastern U.S. a huge construction project leaving a bare right of way.

"Through an area of sensitive rivers and red spruce and habitat for endangered species," says Little. "The amount of disturbance for a pipeline of that magnitude just seems massive."

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

Ernie Reed, president and conservation director Wild Virginia, says the proposed paths would cut across the southern part of Shenandoah Mountain. He describes that as one of the most important roadless areas in the East. Reed says the pipeline could damage the only known habitat of an endangered salamander and one of the two paths could go through a chunk of old growth that survived the clear-cutting at the turn of the last century by mistake.

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

In all, the pipeline would cross five separate watersheds, and Reed 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.

In theory, according to Reed, 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."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV