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Pipeline Impact

ELKINS – Concerned local residents attended two meetings Monday regarding the impact the proposed Eastern Atlantic Pipeline could have on the region.

Dominion Resources hosted an open house focusing on an alternate option to the proposed route at Gandy Dancer Theatre and Conference Center in Elkins, while later in the evening the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission (FERC) provided the public an opportunity to speak on the proposed project during a “scoping meeting” at Elkins High School.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a joint venture of Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources.

Dominion spokesman Bob Fulton said he was satisfied with the results of the open house. He said both residents interested in the project and landowners recently notified about the possibility of the alternate route traveling through their property attended the event.

“They came in and asked very good questions,” he said. “(They were) getting general information and specific information about the pipeline and what to expect.”

Fulton said the purpose of the open house was to not only gather information from the landowner about any issues they may have but also to provide information about what can be expected as the project progresses.

“The information that we get from the landowners or any stakeholders are just vital to the final decisions that have to be made,” Fulton said. “We thought it was in the best interest of the landowners and others to have this so they know what’s going on.”

The proposed alternate route, referred to as MNF 5, is the only alternate route being considered, officials said. It splits off from the proposed route near the Randolph and Upshur County border, traveling south, toward Helvetia and over Elk Mountain before crossing over Middle Mountain near Rt. 219, southwest of Snowshoe Mountain. The route then travels due east through a region that includes less of Monongahela National Forest (MNF) before entering Virginia.

Lauren Ragland, spokesperson for West Virginia Matters, said she recently discovered that the proposed alternate route would cross land she owns. She attended the open house to speak with Dominion officials about her concerns.

“West Virginia Matters has been focused on the West Virginia code and creating county specific presentations regarding emergency planning and water protections for sole source waters,” she said. “All the routes jeopardize the daily drinking sources for millions – from the White House to Bourbon Street.”

Scoping Meeting

Ragland also spoke to FERC officials during the “scoping meeting” about the possible effects the project could have on the East Coast’s water supply.

“I do not believe that most people are aware of the details of this project,” she said before the meeting. “It is not a done deal and must be approved by many state agencies that are sworn to uphold the law – the law to protect the health and public safety of the residents.”

More than 100 concerned or interested individuals attended the meeting, where 33 people signed up to speak either for or against the pipeline project. Each speaker was allotted five minutes to express their thoughts to FERC officials.

“This proposal cannot go through because we’re already pledged to protect the watersheds that we feed,” Ragland said during the meeting. “The new route effects, individually, 44 watersheds going to Florida and Mississippi. This is not a local issue, this is about the water for the East Coast.”

FERC environmental scientist Kevin Bowman, who has been working on the project, said the purpose of the meeting was to provide the public a way to comment verbally to FERC officials so their opinions can be considered along with written and online comments that have been accepted over the last several months in preparation for FERC’s environmental review of the project, which is required by federal law.

“(Taking comments) is a pretty integral part of the process,” Bowman said. “It helps us direct and focus our analysis. It helps us identify things we don’t know already on our own because owners and stakeholders live here – they know the area better than we do.”

Bowman said the comments provide officials with a good starting point and direction.

“For us it’s the way for the public to get involved and have a positive impact on a project instead of staying at home, sitting on their hands and not sending something in,” he said. “They can make a positive change or help us avoid impacts where there wouldn’t necessarily need to be.”

Current maps of the proposed route show, in Randolph County, the pipeline will cross near Helvetia, through Mill Creek, along the Kumbrabow State Forest border, across U.S. Rt 250 near the Huttonsville Correctional Center and up Cheat Mountain – entering Monongahela National Forest.

The headwaters of six major river systems are located in Monongahela National Forest: the Monongahela, Potomac, Greenbrier, Elk, Tygart and Gauley.

Currently expected to traverse Cheat, Shavers and Burner mountains in Randolph and Pocahontas counties, the originally proposed route crosses several significant waterways including the West Fork of the Greenbrier and Shavers Fork of Cheat River as well as numerous streams and creeks that operate as the headwaters for many of the region’s rivers. The alternate route would still cross both the Greenbrier and Shavers Fork rivers.

The national forest, which holds countless recreation opportunities for locals and tourists alike, is also home to at least 75 tree species, more than 225 species of birds, eight federally-listed endangered or threatened species, 12 species of game fish and a diverse array of wildlife.

The 42-inch diameter, 550-mile long pipeline will deliver natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shale fields in North Central West Virginia to Robeson County in North Carolina. The pipeline’s capacity is expected to be approximately 1.5 billion cubic feet per day. The construction of the pipeline is expected to cost up to $5 billion.

According to its website, the purpose of the pipeline is to provide natural gas to growing markets in Virginia and North Carolina.

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