Resident Reaction at Highland Dominion Open House

Dominion Resources’ open house in Highland County provided residents with their first opportunity to study details of the company’s proposed natural gas pipeline.

Even before the meeting officially began, a small crowd of protestors gathered on the sidewalk in front of The Highland Center to express their displeasure with the project.

Bill Pruett of Monterey is a partner in Thrive Farm 365, located south of Monterey, growing and selling local produce.

” Well, I put my retirement into the property I purchased here in Highland County, and they would destroy what we’re trying to build. But that has nothing to do with the problem at hand, and that is, the reason I chose Highland County – these mountains, and the people here – they’re just going to rip them apart – make no sense to me.”

Dot Terry and companion Chester of Monterey echoed those sentiments. While not directly affected by the pipeline’s path, Dot worried about the effects to a delicate environment, including water resources and animal habitat.

Pen Goodall, whose land on Allegheny Mountain would be crossed, also commented.

“My biggest concern is what I have made for my son, for my entire life, will be destroyed. Secondly, the water – I could lose all my water, and all my pasture land and my land will be worth nothing.”

Aubrey Whitelaw, whose mother is also a partner in Thrive 365, had the last word from the protest.

“Whoever’s doing this pipeline idea, you should put in your own garden, and see how it feels.”

Inside the building, 250 residents studied maps and presentations, and spoke with Dominion representatives, hoping to learn more about how their land and county would be affected. Outside of the company’s employees, there were few who could be found who were in favor of the pipeline, but among others, opinions varied, depending on how they would be personally affected.

Jeff and Cindy Wood and Stephen Beverage of McDowell were not opposed to having their farm crossed, as long as proper negotiations took place, and Dominion repaired and maintained the land correctly. Ms. Wood indicated they had ridden pipeline right-of-ways in West Virginia, and had found them well maintained.

On the other side of the spectrum was Daniel Hotz of McDowell. He would be affected in many ways. His property would be crossed, very closely to a rental house he owns. Mr. Hotz is also a realtor and stonemason in the county, and was concerned how this would affect tourism and relocation. He said he saw no pluses to this project, that we were merely “in the way”, and whatever compensation he would receive from the company could never make up for what he stands to lose.

Nancy Hevener Baillie, whose family owns historic Dividing Waters Farm in Hightown summed up the views of most whose property would be crossed.

“it’s clearly detrimental to my farm, but it’s also detrimental to the county, I think. It’s going to have a severe economic impact that people don’t even realize at this point, what that’s going to be. It’s not just the term of the project – the building, the construction, but it’s the long term impact.”

“I’m concerned about the wells on our property, I’m concerned about the springs on our property. They can’t give us any reassurance that it won’t be damaged in some way. I think the big concern is not just that they’ll temporarily disrupt it, it’s that they’ll permanently lower it’s quality – if they do that, they can’t fix it, it’s not fixable. They can dig me a new well, but can they find me water that is of the quality of the water I currently have? I don’t think they can.”

She continued, “Can they replace the 100-150 year old sugar maple trees that are currently being used by a good neighbor of mine for his maple sugar camp? He’s dependent on that for his livelihood. If they cut all those trees down, which would be criminal, they can’t replace that. They can’t make that better.

“So I’m here, really looking for something positive, about this project, and there isn’t anything – not for Highland County.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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