Highland County Board of Supervisors Discusses ACP Amicus Brief, VDOT Bridge Construction and More


The Highland County Board of Supervisors received information about a number of topics at their November 6, 2018 meeting, with the majority of discussion on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and future VDOT construction.

Commonwealth Attorney Melissa Dowd briefed the Board on a lawsuit by the Southern Environmental Law Center, or SELC, challenging the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. They are looking for local governments to file an amicus brief, or “friend of the court” brief, in support of their actions to stop the ACP for a failure to prove that the pipeline was necessary. Locally, the city of Staunton and Nelson County have agreed to support SELC’s efforts. Ms. Dowd agreed with Greg Buppert, a senior attorney with SELC, that this may be the last opportunity for local government to be heard in the pipeline process, but she had no recommendation on how the Board should proceed. The Board chose to table a decision for now, waiting to see what the amicus briefs will look like and who will be involved in the future.

In addition, the Board received a letter from Dominion Energy on their plans for the use of Bullpasture River Road, or Route 678, in Highland County during the construction of the ACP. Dominion states they are committed to limiting the use of heavy construction hauling equipment on the road to the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. This limitation does not extend to the use of Dominion Energy light-duty trucks or cars. Flaggers will also be on the road to ensure safe travel, and any heavy-haul vehicles will be guided by pilot vehicles. No dates for construction were given.

Moving on, the Board was asked for input regarding two options from VDOT about a future federal project that will replace a bridge near New Hampden on Route 640. One option would be to completely close the bridge, which would take six to nine months of construction and require an eighteen-mile detour. The other would be to close one side of the bridge at a time for twelve to eighteen months of construction, but because of the narrowness of the area, only seven to eight-foot traffic would be allowed through. This would mean that some trucks would still be disqualified from going through. Supervisor David Blanchard, in particular, expressed discontent with being offered a choice between these two options. Mr. Blanchard said, “They’re gonna have to keep one lane open, and they can get it done as fast as they can,” as Chairman Harry Sponaugle and Vice-Chairman Kevin Wagner agreed.

In other items, the Board unanimously approved a request by the Bolar Volunteer Fire Department for a loan of $50,000 from the county’s Fire and Rescue Revolving Loan Fund. The money will be used by the Bolar Volunteer Fire Department to complete the addition to their firehouse, and they plan to repay the loan over a ten-year period at $5,000 per year.

Upon the recommendation of the Economic Development Authority, Janice Deem was appointed to fill an unexpired term ending June 30, 2022.

The Board tabled a decision to support a resolution from Frederick County regarding tax exemptions.

They also moved to not renew a two-year lease on the building that housed the Reassessment Office.

Finally, the Board was notified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a Proposed Rule to list the Eastern Black Rail, a small, secretive marsh bird, as a threatened species.

Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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