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Dominion has proposed a new route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that avoids Shenandoah Mountain, Cheat Mountain, and Red Spruce restoration areas in West Virginia. The new route circumvents Shenandoah Mountain by going around its southern end in Bath County and then through the Deerfield Valley to reconnect with Dominion's preferred route at West Augusta. Click on the map below to connect to an interactive map, developed by Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition and Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance.
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The US Forest Service has just rejected the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) route over Shenandoah Mountain in Virginia and Cheat Mountain in West Virginia, citing protection of sensitive resources, including the Cow Knob Salamander, the Cheat Mountain salamander, the West Virginia Northern flying squirrel, and red spruce ecosystem restoration areas in WV. According to a USFS letter, dated Jan. 19, 2016, the ACP route is inconsistent with the GWNF and Monongahela National Forest plans and the Cow Knob Salamander Conservation Agreement.
The proposed route, shown on the map below, grazes the southern boundary of our Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area proposal. It crosses Rt. 250 near Ramseys Draft Wilderness and passes through the GWNF near Braley Pond, one of the most scenic areas of the GWNF.
The FS letter states that "alternatives must be developed to facilitate further processing" of the ACP application. Any new alternative(s) must avoid Shenandoah Mountain. This is good news for special places on our public lands the Virginia Wilderness Committee is working hard to protect.
(January 6, 2016) Roanoke, VA – The USDA Forest Service presented the George Washington National Forest Stakeholder Collaborative, a partnership of 19 local organizations and other individuals, with the 2015 Partners and Community Engagement award for their efforts on the George Washington National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Plan) and Lower Cowpasture Restoration and Management Project.
This regional award honors one partner group selected from among 17 National Forests in 13 southern states. The award recipients were recognized for their innovative and creative approaches to building partnerships and implementing Forest Service projects.
The award recipients represent: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; Society of American Foresters; Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition; Virginia Wilderness Committee; The Nature Conservancy; Shenandoah Mountain Touring; Bath County Board of Supervisors; Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited; The Nature Conservancy; Virginia Forestry Association; Quality Deer Management Association - Rockingham Branch; Southern Environmental Law Center; Friends of Shenandoah Mountain; Virginia Chapter Sierra Club; Virginia State Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation; James River Chapter of Ruffed Grouse Society, Alleghany County Board of Supervisors; Virginia Bear Hunters Association; and Virginia State Leadership Team, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
This diverse group of stakeholders united in 2010 with the goal of developing recommendations for the management of the George Washington National Forest. The Collaborative built trust among diverse interests and found common goals. Through open dialog and use of resources such as the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation, representatives from the participating organizations built consensus around a suite of issues that have traditionally been contentious and polarizing. The Collaborative is convened by a six-member steering committee: Al Bourgeois and Jay Jeffreys (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries), John Hancock (Virginia Forestry Association/Society of American Foresters), Kyle Lawrence (Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition), Mark Miller (Virginia Wilderness Committee), and Marek Smith (The Nature Conservancy).
The product of their efforts was the submission of joint comments on the George Washington National Forest Draft Plan. The Final Plan, released in November 2014, reflected many of the recommendations and received broad public support as a result of the diligence of the Stakeholder Collaborative. The Forest Plan recommended additional acres of Wilderness and a National Scenic Area, as well as additional areas and objectives for management activities such as timber harvesting, controlled burning, and other habitat management techniques.
According to John Hancock, one of the steering committee members who helped initiate the group,
The Stakeholder Collaborative participated in public workshops, encouraged public and county engagement, and provided input to identify priority restoration efforts and management activities. Their efforts produced a plan which outlines a roster of restoration and management projects to take place over the next ten years. These proposed projects include timber management, road restoration and management, fish and aquatic organism passage improvements, wildlife habitat management, American Chestnut restoration, non-native invasive species control, recreational trail development, and prescribed fire.
These projects reflect the unified Vision Statement of the partnership:
“We envision a well-connected network of core, relatively unfragmented, forested areas embedded within
VWC is advertising a part-time job. We are looking for qualified candidates who are committed to Wilderness protection. Please forward to anyone who might be interested.
Board Operations and Outreach Assistant
Deadline for applications: Jan 22, 2016
Virginia Wilderness Committee is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit citizen group dedicated to protecting wild places on the public lands of Virginia, fostering understanding of Wilderness Areas, and educating the public about the scientific and social values of wildlands. VWC is governed by volunteer elected officers of its Board of Directors, and has one fulltime staff for field operations.
JOB DUTIES: The Operations Assistant will be responsible for assisting the Board President and other Board members: (1) develop an outreach campaign, (2) manage our web site and several social media platforms, and (3) assist with selected administrative tasks.
REQUIREMENTS: Undergraduate or associate degree (depending on work experience); demonstrated ability to make public presentations; excellent interpersonal skills, including ability to engage constructively with the general public and with Board members; demonstrated ability to write clearly; ability to work independently; computer competence including social media; willingness to travel throughout the Shenandoah Valley to make presentations. An understanding of the National Wilderness Preservation System, wilderness values, and National Forests is helpful but not required.
SALARY AND HOURS: Starting salary $14.00-$18.00 per hour, depending on work experience, with opportunity for a merit raise after a three-month trial period. Hours flexible, with an average of up to 14 hours per week.
APPLICATION: Please send full resume, writing samples, and computer expertise, along with a cover letter explaining why you are interested in the position to: Bud Watson, President, Virginia Wilderness Committee, 14031 Independence Road, Ashland, VA 23005, or email to email@example.com, by January 22, 2016.
FERC puts Atlantic Coast Pipeline EIS on hold pending development of more southern route alternative
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has asked Dominion to identify and develop a more southern Atlantic Coast Pipeline route across the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests that would avoid Shenandoah Mountain and Cheat Mountain and use existing utility rights of ways as much as possible. FERC has also called for updated information on any reroutes. We presume this would include biological surveys for the new southern route.
VWC is heartened that FERC has specifically called for a route that avoids designated and potential Wilderness Areas, National Recreation Areas, recommended wilderness study areas, and other sensitive public or resource areas.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is on hold until the more southern route has been developed and assessed.
Excerpt from FERC's Dec. 4, 2015 letter to Dominion:
"You should be aware that through our consultations with the U.S. Forest Service and our interpretation of the prescriptive-specific goals, objectives, standards, and guidelines listed in the respective Monongahela and George Washington National Forests’ Land and Resource Management Plans, we have determined that alternative routes to the south of the currently proposed ACP route may offer environmental advantages over the currently proposed route. To ensure that a complete and thorough evaluation of the ACP is presented in the draft environmental impact statement (EIS), we request that Atlantic identify and assess an alternative pipeline route across the National Forests. The information requested in the enclosure is necessary for us to evaluate the SHP, ACP, and an alternative pipeline route across the National Forests and to continue preparation of the draft EIS for the project. Please note that we will not be able to establish a schedule for completing the EIS until we have received your response(s) and reviewed it for completeness...
Read FERC's full letter to Dominion at: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/21393847/FERC/20151204-3026%2831059649%29.pdf
Read about VWC's Mark Miller's accepting the Regional Forester’s Partners and Community Engagement Award on behalf of the GWNF Stakeholders Collaborative and other news in our December 2015 newsletter.
Dominion Transmission is offering a new alternative route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that will go under Shenandoah Mountain via two separate Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) tunnels to avoid the rare Cow Knob Salamander. A letter from George Washington National Forest Supervisor Tom Speaks, dated Sept. 17, 2015, strongly stated that the ACP route was not in compliance with the Cow Knob Salamander Conservation Agreement of 1994. The Speaks letter also said that "project effects on the Cow Knob Salamander must be avoided and cannot be mitigated." and that "it is essential to evaluate alternatives to avoid adverse effects" on this species.
The new proposed tunnel route is not in compliance with the Conservation Agreement. Indeed, according to Dominion's report to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commisison, this new alternative route would still pass through .7 mile of Cow Knob Salamander habitat. In addition the new tunnel route would have a greater impact on intermittent and perennial streams and would lnvolve large staging areas that would have a high potential for sediment runoff and pollution of some of our cleanest streams, like the Cowpasture River and Ramseys Draft.
Read article in Richmond Times-Dispatch by Rex Springston, Oct. 30, 2015
Dominion says it would run natural gas pipeline underground to avoid rare salamander
Because of the potential negative effects on special places on our public lands, VWC has filed to become an intervenor in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) application. Doing so will give us the status to submit comments and documents “on the record” to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and will give us legal standing to state our case in court, should that become necessary. Our long-time legal ally Southern Environmental Law Center will represent VWC and several other organizations in this effort.
The Oct. 13, 2015 edition of Richmond Times-Dispatch features an article by Rex Springston about the Cow Knob Salamander, found almost exclusively on Shenandoah Mountain in the GWNF. This rare creature has been protected by a Conservation Agreeement between the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1994. This Conservation Agreement is now being put to a test. The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route would cut right through Cow Knob Salamander habitat as it crosses Shenandoah Mountain south of Rt. 250, violating the agreement and the GWNF management plan.
Read "Salamander found nowhere else in the world lies in path of proposed pipeline" by Rex Springston, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Oct. 13, 2015
VWC board member Steve Johnson was featured in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Sept. 19 for his conservation photography. In addition to being a very active photographer himself, Steve teaches conservation photography at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg. During the past three years, he and his students have captured images of VWC's proposed Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area, our proposed Beech Lick Knob Wilderness, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route, and several of Virginia's existing Wilderness areas. Steve particularly enjoys taking photos of salamanders and other amphibians and likes to see his work used for advocacy. It is not unusual to find Steve wading in a vernal pond or carefully lifting rocks and logs to find subjects that illustrate the incredible biodiversity we have here in western Virginia. VWC is very fortunate to have Steve join our board this year.
Read the Richmond Times Dipatch article about Steve.
Be sure to click on the gallery to see examples of his work.