Part 2 Atlantic Coast Pipeline 3-10-16 Open House @ Snowshoe
The open house consisted of a number of table displays about different aspects of the pipeline project’s construction methods and detailed maps of the proposed routes. All three Pocahontas County Commissioners, William Beard, David McLaughlin and Jamie Walker and at least one candidate running for a position on the Commission – Ban Wilfong along with many interested citizens were in attendance at the Open House.
I noticed on the maps –and this was confirmed by Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby- that Snowshoe has been successful in having the rout moved away from their entrance, the snowshoe Inn and the Daycare Center in Linwood.
Aaron Ruby briefly talked about the environmental impact on land of a pipeline verses wind or solar energy- Aaron.
“The 1 and ½ billion cubic feet a day of Natural gas (expected to flow through the 42 inch pipeline) is basically enough in terms of electricity generation to power 5 million homes” Ruby said. “Over a 600 mile span of territory in 3 states, we’ll be using 5,500 acres. In order to produce an equivalent amount of energy by wind, it would require 400 thousand acres of land. In order to produce an equivalent amount of energy with solar it would require 1.7 million acres of land.”
Rather than be steered by company representatives through the display, I chose to seek answers to several disturbing issues brought up to me by groups opposing the pipeline. I focused on two major concerns, and will provide the answers supplied by the Dominion representatives for you to evaluate and accept or reject. Number one on my list were concerns about running the pipeline through the limestone karst terrain which makes up much of the new proposed route. I found and asked Engineer Ted Lewis of Geo Concepts Engineering, about the dangers and challenges the karst presents. Ted
“On this project, unlike a lot of pipeline projects, they are doing a geophysical survey, using electric resistivity which will allow us to see 20 feet below the ground surface” said Lewis. “So, not only are we identifying the karst features that are at the surface, but we are also going to be identifying the karst features that are below the surface. We are going to do that prior to construction so that we can come up with mitigation plans before they get to the area of the karst. From our prospective, they’re doing more to deal with the karst issues up front in planning than any project I’ve been involved with.”
Ted went on to say that they always try to avoid karst areas when possible, but they cannot always be avoided, so they then try to minimize the impact of the construction on the karst and if the route makes that impossible, they will mitigate the impact. What is this mitigation? Ted explains.
“There are recommended remedial methods” Lewis explains. “Typically they involve reverse graded back fills. And the reverse graded backfills, why they are good is they allow water to flow but don’t allow the soil to flow.
Ted says his firm specializes in safe construction over karst, and designs 10 story buildings over top of karst.
OK, but what about preserving the groundwater? Ted
“Groundwater is a significant issue” said Lewis. “Our firm actually developed the criteria to protect the Madison Cave Isopods, which is an endangered species which only survives in karst groundwater. And so, those same techniques to preserve the Madison Cave Isopod are being used on this project to protect the ground water. There’s a number of provisions being implemented to help protect the groundwater not because there’s a Madison Cave Isopod (here) but because groundwater is important to everybody.”
I caught up with Brittany Moody, the pipeline’s Engineering Manager to find out if they actually intended to open trench through the Greenbrier River.
“It will be open trenched, but it will be open trenched in the dry” said Moody. “We are currently looking at a coffer dam. You dam it off and construct part of it in the dry and then once you get that put together, you put all the material back and you dam off the other side, and then you dig it in and you tie it together then you are out of there. You are not allowed to have muddy water. We’re required to contain all the sediments. Typically we have none since it’s dry when we putting it all in. And we segregate the top layer of the bottom of the stream and then when we’re done we put all that rubble back on top.”
So there is Dominion’s side of those concerns for your evaluation. The Engineers I spoke with did strike me as being concerned and knowledgeable professionals, as have others on the opposing side.