U.S. Forest Service comments could push back pipeline construction
In a letter sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Sept. 1, the U.S. Forest Service voiced concerns that the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could threaten several streams in the George Washington National Forest.
In particular, the USFS said it was “highly concerned” about the potential impacts on the Laurel Run Stream in Bath County, Va.
In the most recent route for the proposed pipeline, this stream — home to wild brook trout — would not only be crossed by the pipeline itself, but it would be paralleled for nearly its entire length by an access road that would also cross it several times. The USFS called this “unacceptable.”
In its letter, the Forest Service also raised concerns about several streams in Augusta County that would also be crossed by the proposed routes for both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and its access roads.
These roads and the pipeline pose many risks, including to our forests’ streams and rivers. They would fragment habitats and threaten the species that live there, cause soil erosion and reduce water quality. For the trout populations, siltation is of particular concern.
According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, brook trout are the only trout species native to Virginia, but this cold water fish has a “very low ability to reproduce.” In order to protect the silt-free gravel stream beds where trout spawns, the forest plan for the George Washington National Forest restricts activities that could disrupt the streams between Oct. 1 and April 1.
The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, however, reports that “Dominion has indicated an intent to proceed with accelerated winter-time construction and to request waivers for time-of-year restrictions and other important environmental requirements.”
But there’s reason to believe that the Forest Service would deny Dominion’s request for a waiver and protect the reproduction cycle of the trout. In its September letter, the Forest Service “request[ed] that [Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC] re-evaluate its proposed stream crossings and proposed locations of access roads, while considering Forest Plan standards and [best management practices] relating to soil and water.”
This is good news for the environmental groups and impacted community members who are fighting to stop the construction of this pipeline.
“At the very least, this will push back Dominion’s timeline for release of its Draft Environmental Impact Statement which was previously set for December, 2016 release,” said Ernie Reed, Wild Virginia President, in a statement. “Or it could be another nail in the coffin for this misguided and unnecessary project.”
For more about the potential risk caused by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline access roads, visit the Ground Truth About ACP Access Roads.