Forest Service Seeking Commentary on GW Pipeline Surveying
The Forest Service announced in a press release on December 11th that it is seeking comments on whether to allow surveys on a 12.6-mile segment of the George Washington National Forest for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Highland and Augusta counties. Proposed activities include surveying wetlands, water, soil, and suitable habitat for sensitive species, including federally listed threatened and endangered plants and animals. Surveys will also record and document cultural resources and invasive species. The Forest Service will use public comments and an environmental review to decide whether to issue a permit for the environmental and cultural resource surveys on forest lands. Comments are being accepted through Friday, January 9, 2015.
Forest supervisor Tom Speaks noted the information gathered from these surveys is necessary to make future decisions on whether or not to allow the construction and operation of the proposed pipeline. If allowed, the survey information will inform the Forest Service where to avoid or reduce the impacts to sensitive resources.
He stressed that allowing these survey activities does not mean they are allowing the construction of a pipeline. At this time, they are only seeking comments on survey activities; additional opportunities to comment on the specific route and construction of the proposed pipeline will be provided by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the coming months.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC is currently surveying private and public land to determine routing feasibility, and identify environmental and cultural resources along the proposed 551-mile route. If the results determine that the proposed route is feasible, then the FERC will conduct an in-depth environmental analysis, with many opportunities for public comments, prior to deciding on the need for the pipeline.
If the FERC determines the pipeline is needed, the Forest Service will make a separate determination whether to issue a right-of-way permit to construct, operate, and maintain a natural gas pipeline on National Forest System lands. The Forest Service will use the FERC’s environmental analysis and public process to inform it’s decision.
Activities associated with the proposed surveys include:
- Survey crews walking the corridor. No vehicles will be used except to access the corridor using public and existing Forest Roads.
- Using hand tools to remove minor amounts of brush to navigate the route.
- Placing biodegradable survey ribbon, flagging, survey stakes, and plastic pin flags which will be removed after all surveys are conducted.
- Removing soil with shovels to test for cultural resources.
- Identification and documentation of cultural resources, sensitive species habitat, and invasive species.
Comments may be submitted by e-mail, fax and mail or hand delivery. Please see the full transcript of this story on alleghenymountainradio.org for electronic and mailing addresses and phone numbers.
FAX: (540) 265-5145
Mail or Hand Deliver:
USDA Forest Service
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Survey Comments
5162 Valleypointe Parkway
Roanoke, VA 24019
Hand-delivered comments must be received during our normal business hours of Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
More information, including maps and specifics of survey activities can be found on our website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/gwj/ or by calling (540) 265-5100