Highland Supervisors Hear from Citizens
Discussion of Dominion Resources proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project dominated the Highland County Board of Supervisors’ meeting Tuesday evening.
The first mention came during District Ranger Pat Sheridan’s update on the national forest. Sheridan reported that on September 29th, the George Washington – Jefferson National Forest had received a special use permit proposal from Dominion to survey the proposed route across forest land. The forest service has not yet approved this proposal – if it does, it will be issued before the end of 2014, and will be effective for 1 year. Dominion has now notified it’s intent to construct the pipeline with a pre-filing letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If FERC issues a Certificate of Need for the project, Dominion would then have to apply to the forest service for a special use permit to construct, operate and maintain the pipeline on the public land.
Next on the agenda, Monterey resident Katie Gwinn presented the Board with the results of the opinion survey she has been conducting for the last six weeks. The 55 page booklet contains the responses and comments from over 460 participants. Gwinn will also present a copy of the book to the Monterey Town Council at their next meeting. The Board expressed appreciation to Gwinn for her efforts.
During public commentary, several residents spoke about the project, including Penn Goodall, whose Allegheny Mountain property would be bisected by the route. Goodall asked the Board members whether they had an opinion for or against the pipeline. Chair Kevin Wagner responded.
“We’ve adopted a position of “guarded neutrality” on it. That being said, we understand totally everything that you’re talking about, that the threats that it poses to the water, to the mountains. We understand it’s going to be a huge danger, and create a big mess, going over eight mountain ranges. That being said, it’s a large project, an interstate project, and there is very little that our county can do to actively fight a project of this size. It’s not like Highland County is going to be able to stop the project. All we can do is try to mitigate the damage where we can, and try to provide a safe working environment where we can for the people that would come here.”
The Board stressed that it was sympathetic to the concerns of it’s constituents, and have voiced those concerns to Dominion.
Other public commentary noted that the process was still far from over, and that other counties had adopted resolutions against the pipeline, and requiring that Dominion work through county procedures. Wagner clarified that this process was currently in place in Highland as well. Dominion must work through the county procedures on anything they do until FERC issues a Certificate of Need for the project, at which time their authority would supersede all others.
In other business, the Board heard a report from Chamber of Commerce Executive director Tiffany White on a proposal to re-align tourism districts throughout the state, and from Sheriff Tim Duff on his office’s monthly activities. It denied a request from The Highland Center to waive building permit fees on upcoming renovation, due to lack of authority to do so.
During Board comment period, Wagner noted that the trash collection facility in McDowell had been disabled by the dumping of large amounts of agricultural products, which had taken three days to repair. Disposal of improper products at the sight is a misdemeanor, and the Board would likely take action on this offense.