Monongahela National Forest public comment on proposed pipeline scheduled for January

Concerned citizens can voice their opinion about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s path through Monongahela National Forest starting in January.

The public comment period is currently ongoing for the George Washington National Forest with a dedicated web page with more information about the project, including an email, phone, and address for issuing citizen statements and thoughts about the project proposed by Dominion Resources.

The comment period for the National Forest is separate from the public comment for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is the agency that has the final say in approving or denying the permit for the pipeline. If approved, the 42-inch natural gas pipeline would span 550 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina.

The comment for the National Forest is specifically related to whether or not to allow Dominion to survey the forest for the pipeline. Established in 1920, Monongahela National Forest spans across 10 counties in the state and includes eight species of birds, bats, salamanders, and plants that are federally registered as threatened or endangered.

Elise Keaton, education and outreach coordinator for the Greenbrier River Watershed Association, said the environmental organizational is prepared to submit several requests as part of their comment.

“What we’re asking the forest to do is require Dominion to collect certain types of data about habitat and eco-systems and water resources within the forest during this survey period, for a couple reasons. One is to create a baseline that we can then go back and look at and another is also document some of the very fragile areas that they have proposed to disrupt in the construction of the pipeline.

“So we see this as an opportunity to have a really honest and genuine conversation about the impact on the national forest based on the data that they collect in the survey process,” Keaton said.

“They’ll review these comments and then structure the permit, hopefully based on those comments and input from the community,” she said.

Phone calls and emails sent to representatives of the Forest Service and Dominion Resources were not answered during this holiday week.

Previously, Jack Tribble, Greenbrier district ranger for the Forest Service, has said he hopes to hear public input on the proposed location of the pipeline, currently slated to cross Cheat Mountain, Shavers Mountain, and Burner Mountain in Pocahontas County, all part of the Allegheny Mountain range along the West Virginia and Virginia state lines, and all with an elevation above 4,000 feet.

“We are going to go out to the public and ask the public about their opinion about where the location of the proposed pipeline is. That’s something that we feel strongly about is engaging with the public,” Tribble said in an interview in October.

Tribble specifically called Cheat Mountain a sensitive area.

“I would hope that all the local folks that want to get engaged with this, track this, stay involved, and watch it over the next couple of years,” Tribble said.

In January, the Greenbrier River Watershed Association is hosting a series of public information sessions. Dominion Resources also will be holding public information sessions in January.

None of the upcoming meetings by the watershed association or Dominion Resources will be held in Pocahontas County.

The next meeting to be held by the Watershed Association will be held Jan. 6 in Lewisburg, Jan. 7 in Craigsville, and Jan. 17 in Weston.

The next public meeting by Dominion Resources will be held Jan. 15 in Monterey, Jan. 21 in Elkins, and Jan. 22 in Weston.

“We’re still very early in the process. Dominion has scheduled some open houses for the West Virginia counties coming up mid to late January, and I would encourage community members to go to those open houses and ask specific questions of the industry folks and of the FERC representatives at those open houses and be present and part of the conversation,” Keaton said.

Story By

Kelly Taber

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