NELSON, VA (NEWSPLEX) -- In Nelson County, pipeline pushback is making Dominion examine some alternate routes for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Dominion released four additional route options Monday, as part of the company's "natural routing process."
"We have to find the best route with the least impact to the environment, culture, and historic resources," said Dominion spokesperson Frank Mack.
Of the four options, the "Appalachian Trail South Alterative" route is similar to the "preferred" proposed plan, but would run about eight miles through the George Washington National Forest, and cross the Appalachian Trail.
"Many natural gas pipelines, electric transmission lines, and infrastructure already cross the trails today," Mack said,
The "East of Lovingston Alternate" takes into consideration the requests of Nelson County residents who wanted to avoid areas damaged by Hurricane Camille. The "East of Lovingston Connector" is about 5.4 miles long, and crosses the Blue Ridge Mountains. The fourth route, "Wingina Alternate," avoids some historic districts.
Mack says Dominion evaluated 3,000 miles of potential routes to come up with the proposed plan. He says the next step is surveying those properties. Dominion is currently suing dozens of residents who have denied them access to their land.
"We've tried to be as transparent as possible to landowners, and all stake holders, knowing that surveying is the best way to understand not only the benefits, but the constraints of any of these routes," said Mack.
However, Nelson County landowners aren't buying it
"Previous to this they didn't propose any alternatives. So how can we take seriously that they are even trying to minimize negative impacts," said Friends of Nelson president Joanna Salidis.
Salidis says she bought her home in Nelson County so her family could enjoy the property and the natural environment. Salidis says, bottom line, Friends of Nelson doesn't want a pipeline in their county.
"We would be interested in seeing alternatives outside of the county and using existing rights of way. This type of high pressure transmission line should no be in anyone's backyard," Salidis said.
Dominion sent out land survey requests to landowners Monday. Salidis says Friends of Nelson are ready to help those property owner protect their rights, and refuse Dominion access to survey.
Dominion will also hold a meeting on March 5 to discuss the options with property owners.
Dominion Energy press release:
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has identified several potential alternate routes for the interstate natural gas pipeline through Nelson County and parts of Augusta and Buckingham counties. We are sending letters today to landowners along the alternatives seeking their permission to survey. Surveys are the only way to understand fully the potential benefits and constraints of these potential alternatives.
These alternate routes are in addition to the proposed route. A map of the proposed route and the alternatives is attached.
These alternatives are a natural part of the routing process. They are the result of conversations with local, state and federal officials; landowners and other stakeholders. It is consistent with our promise to work with all parties to find the best route with the least impacts to people, the environment, and historic and cultural resources. It also is consistent with what we have done elsewhere along the proposed route.
No decision has been made on which route will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC) as the preferred route. That will require surveying the alternatives as well as the completing surveying work on the proposed route.
Throughout the development of the ACP, Dominion’s construction, engineering and environmental teams have reviewed and evaluated more than 3,000 miles of route variations. Typically, the first steps in evaluating route alternatives are: (1) to identify and try to avoid potential constraints and (2) to conduct surveys and environmental studies along the potential alternative route corridor. In almost all cases, evaluation of alternate routes is an exercise of balancing competing constraints. Identifying the least impactful route is always the objective. And, building and operating safely is our paramount concern.
The ACP will host an informational open house on these alternate routes on Thursday, March 5, at a time and location to be determined.
The Appalachian Trail South Alternative
The ACP must cross the Appalachian Trail (AT) as it continues from West Virginia through Virginia and on to North Carolina. Many other natural gas pipelines, electric transmission lines and other infrastructure projects already cross the trail. Our proposed route has a constructible crossing that we believe minimizes any potential impact on the trail and its surrounding area.
After discussions with stakeholders, Dominion has identified another viable route on a section of the AT that is in the George Washington National Forest, about 8 miles southwest of the proposed crossing. We are requesting permission from GWNF officials to survey this alternate route.
On this alternate route, Dominion has studied and determined that it would be feasible to use Horizontal Directional Drill (HDD) construction to install the ACP well below both the AT and the Blue Ridge Parkway, with no trees removed and no long-term visual impacts.
While the construction is more challenging and several more roads are crossed, this alternate route would be about 1 ½ miles shorter and cross about 10 fewer water bodies than the proposed route. It would change the route in eastern Augusta County to align with one end of the boring. Surveying this alternate route would affect 155 new tracts of land – 95 in Augusta and 60 in Nelson.
East of Lovingston Alternate
Many Nelson County landowners and residents have asked us to consider avoiding the areas damaged by Hurricane Camille in planning the ACP route. This alternate route avoids areas identified by The Nature Conservancy as critical habitat, Davis Creek, and areas that were hardest hit by Hurricane Camille in 1969. This alternate route would straighten out the proposed route east of Lovingston, the Nelson County seat, and is about 5 miles shorter than the proposed route. 95 new tracts of land would be affected.
East of Lovingston Connector
If the AT South Alternative is chosen for crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains, the ACP must rejoin the original proposed route or connect with the East of Lovingston Alternate route. This connector would be about 5.4 miles in length and surveying this alternative would affect 15 new tracts of land.
Interstate natural gas pipelines make every effort to avoid historic districts where possible. During conversations with landowners and community leaders along the proposed route, Dominion was made aware of a pending historic district designation for the Norwood – Wingina section of Nelson County because of its unique historical significance. The Virginia State Review Board and the Department of Historic Resources has recommended that the Norwood – Wingina Historic District be eligible for nomination to the national and state registers. Formal nomination to the National Register of Historic Places is expected in March 2015.
The Wingina Alternate would move the proposed route to avoid the Norwood – Wingina Historic District. It would shorten the length of the route through Nelson County by about 1 mile and cross the James River under a narrower section of the river, approximately 3 miles northeast of the proposed route. It would require a slight route variation in Buckingham County. Surveying this alternative would affect 16 new tracts of land.