Landowners see maps before notification letters

In this age when information comes at us so fast and from so many different directions, sometimes we are easily blindsided by the unexpected.   This was the experience of John and Caryl Cowden, the owners and operators of Fort Lewis Lodge near Millboro. On February 12th, when they learned that a map of a new route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was going to be released that afternoon, they were worried. John Cowden described what he saw when the map became available to the public.

“And you could just enlarge the scale, and enlarge the scale, and the closer and closer it got, it was just disbelief to tell you the truth that uh, not only is the pipeline coming right through the property, the farm, but it was coming right down my lane, and practically within a stone’s throw of my house, and then crossing the river, so you know, hard to explain the emotion after seeing that.”

At the time I spoke with Mr. Cowden, who happens to serve on Bath County’s Planning Commission, he had not received a letter of notification yet from Dominion Transmission about their change in the route.   So I asked.

“If, in the next week or two, you receive a request to survey, how do expect to respond?”

“I would need some more counsel on that. My understanding in reading other articles, that people have opposed it in neighboring counties of Augusta and Nelson, and they haven’t gained any traction on that.”

John and Caryl have studied fast to learn what this route around the southern tip of Shenandoah Mountain will mean, not only to Fort Lewis, but to the whole northern part of Bath County. Again, John Cowden,

“The impact of this alternative route that they’re proposing, has seventy-nine miles of private land crossed, eighty four primary state and local roads crossed, eighteen miles of agricultural land crossed, forty miles of shallow bedrock crossing required which will require drilling and blasting, which could certainly affect water supply for any number of people, twenty-four miles of steep slopes, greater than thirty percent crossed, and twenty-seven miles of karst topography to be crossed. And that’s quite an environmental cost as opposed to the original route crossing Shenandoah Mountain.”

A look at the FERC, or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s website shows a list of about twenty-nine pipeline project applications for 2015, three of which were submitted by Dominion Transmission. All three of those show “issued dates” towards the end of last year. John Cowden,

“I have to question how seriously they really evaluate the studies that a number of people have done in terms of the economic impact, environmental impact, historical impact; it just goes on and on.”

So, the Cowdens, and by now, likely many other home owners, farmers, and small businesses in northern Bath County are trying to learn what they need to, in order to negotiate or not, with Dominion Transmission.

“ABRA, Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance is a coalition of forty different organizations that have all had scientific investigation and input to this whole project. Another site that I also found informative is the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition.”

If you don’t spend a lot of time online, there are other ways to connect with people experienced in pipeline monitoring. Again, John Cowden,

“The Recorder has been following the story in great detail, and they have a wonderful library, and legal recommendation. So that’s what I’m going by. I’m thankful that we have all these resources.” Several representatives from ABRA will be speaking, and answering questions Thursday evening at the Hot Springs firehouse. The meeting will start at 7:30.

Please stay tuned to Allegheny Mountain radio for part 2 of this story.

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.

Current Weather