ABRA presents ACP update, and CSI intro

Last Thursday evening four member groups of the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance, or ABRA, welcomed Bath and Highland residents to the Bolar Ruritan Club to give an overview of the legal standing of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Rick Webb of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition explained several regulatory agencies are still collecting information to assure that Dominion Energy will have all construction plans in place to the letter of the law.

FERC, The US Forest Service, the DEP in West Virginia, and the DEQ in Virginia are the agencies overseeing the permitting process, plans for erosion and sediment control. The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for seeing best management practices are followed at over eight hundred stream crossings.

While the attorneys, scientists and bureaucrats continue to work from all of those angles, citizens with “boots on the ground”, or sharp eyes are needed to collect evidence grade data to provide to the Compliance Survey Initiative, or CSI, who partners with the regulatory agencies. The roles in which those needed volunteers are first, observers who can report visible impact on surface water downstream from construction. Just a few possible impacts would be: sediment on stream bed or bank, muddy water, other discoloration, erosion and undercutting, oily film on water surface, evidence of spill control or petroleum smell.

Because no public is allowed near construction easements, most viewing is limited to roadsides, or other public vantage points. Any one who has experience with stream monitoring for water quality is also encouraged to become a CSI volunteer. After an incident report from observers or stream monitors, CSI first responders can use background preparation from research and administration volunteers to see exactly if, where and how the incident is within compliance, or not.   The Pipeline Air Force may also be enlisted both for routine surveillance, and to respond to incidents. Pilots and photographers are already working regularly in the air, and Thursday evening participants saw many photographs of clearing for ACP construction already begun in West Virginia, and on the Mountain Valley Pipeline to the south. Drone operators are also needed in the Pipeline Air Force, and training is available through CSI, the first one being August 4th in Buckingham County. Another useful tool for those interested in close observation of pipeline construction is an app called Avenza Maps.

In addition to Rick Webb, Kirk Bowles, pipelines campaign manager for the Virginia Sierra Club, and Malcolm Cameron, a former VDOT employee, and now coordinator of geo hazards analysis for DPMC spoke about specific techniques for erosion and sediment control, and how to recognize whether they are succeeding or failing. Kirk described nineteen minimum standards that are deigned to protect

“downstream property owners from damage to their properties. In other words, sediment going off construction sites is not allowed. You can actually file lawsuits for trespass against the violator, but more than that we have specific regulations in the state that are tied to the E and S program.” Fines for non-agricultural run-off can run from $32,000 to 100, 000 dollars per incident, and more for repeated violations of E and S laws. Malcolm Cameron completed the presentation by showing examples of different techniques for stream or culvert crossings which include timber mat bridges, stream flow diversion, dam and pump diversions, and for larger creeks or rivers, staged coffer dams. For more information on the Compliance Surveillance Initiative visit pipelineupdate.org\csi

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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