Category Archives: National Forest Service

Forest Service Satisfied with Feasibility of Reed’s Gap HDD

The April 6, 2017, Richmond-Times Dispatch article reporting on DEQ’s announcement that it will require individual water quality certifications also reported that “the U.S. Forest Service said it is satisfied with the feasibility of [Dominion’s] proposal to drill through the Blue Ridge Mountain to avoid the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway between Augusta and Nelson counties.” Further, “Clyde Thompson, Forest Service supervisor in the Monongahela in West Virginia, told federal regulators this week that the agency has concluded that the use of horizontal directional drilling and a contingency plan for a more conventional drilling method both would be ‘feasible at the proposed location.’ ”

Read the Richmond Times-Dispatch article here (scroll down to the second half of the article).

Friction between Forest Service and Dominion Over Pipeline Permitting

A lengthy March 20, 2017, Richmond Times-Dispatch article, “Testimony, correspondence, show friction between Dominion, U.S. Forest Service, over pipeline permitting,” discusses the many ways in which Dominion has repeatedly failed to provide information requested and required by the U.S. Forest Service, information relevant to Dominion’s proposed pipeline through steep slope areas of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests. But despite Dominion’s failure to respond to Forest Service requests, during a U.S. Senate committee hearing on energy infrastructure last week a top Dominion official complained about the Forest Service’s slowness in responding to Dominion’s application!

A February 22, 2017 letter to Monongahela Forest supervisor Clyde Thompson from James Thompson, a West Virginia University professor and specialist in soils and land use who has been contracted by the Forest Service as a third-party reviewer for the pipeline project, discusses in detail Dominion’s failures. Teleconferences with the Forest Service on November 21 and December 8, 2016, and another on February 17, 2017, were planned as opportunities for Dominon to present their proposed “Best in Class” Steep Slopes Program and solicit Forest Service feedback. At none of these meetings did Dominion provide any specific or targeted information that would allow the Forest Service to properly evaluate Dominion’s proposal. Further, the analyses and documentation from Dominion does not include data or information derived from the Order 1 Soil Survey previously prepared for National Forest lands along the route. Professor Thompson also notes that Dominion is not making available to meeting participants the documents and data critical for discussion of agenda topics until less than 24 hours before the scheduled teleconferences!

Read Professor Thompson’s letter here and the Richmond Times-Dispatch article here.

Remember that the Forest Service is requesting public comments on the authorization of the ACP on National Forest lands and on the proposed amendments of the Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) that would allow the ACP to be constructed across the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests. For instructions on how to comment, see our January 10, 2017, Web page posting.

The ACP in Our National Forests: FERC’s Problematic DEIS and How You Can Help

Photo by Lynn Cameron

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) released a new story map this week about the major problems with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP’s) route through the National Forests.  The report highlights seven major issues with the DEIS and provides information on how you can help protect our National Forests by submitting a comment to FERC that asks the Forest Service to deny a Special Use Permit that would allow construction of the ACP through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests.

The DPMC has identified seven problem areas in the DEIS for the ACP:

  1. The request for an amendment to the forest plans for the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests would lower standards for soil retention, water quality protection, harvesting old growth trees, crossing the Appalachian Trail, construction of roads in a Scenic River Corridor, and the maintenance of scenic integrity.
  2. The construction of the ACP and its many access roads would result in significant loss of forestland and increased forest fragmentation.  A total of 2,406 acres of core forestland would be lost in the National Forests.  This impact cannot be mitigated.
  3. The DEIS fails to acknowledge and address the many endangered and sensitive species that will be negatively impacted by the ACP.  The DEIS only identifies five species that would be adversely affected, but the US Fish & Wildlife Service has identified 30 federally threatened or endangered species, 2 designated critical habitats, 1 proposed species, 5 proposed critical habitats, and 6 species under review for federal listing that are known to occur along the ACP route.  Furthermore, forest fragmentation or slight shifts in the route of the ACP could negatively impact many additional species.  Many of the biological surveys for special species may not be completed until September 2017; therefore, survey results are not included in the DEIS.  The DEIS is thus incomplete with regard to impacts to sensitive species and cannot inform the Forest Service regarding its decision to issue a Special Use Permit. 
  4. The ACP will threaten water quality in pristine streams and rivers in the National Forests.  The ACP and it access roads would cross 58 streams in the National Forests, including 26 native brook trout streams.
  5. The ACP route passes through high-hazard areas with steep terrain that would be prone to severe erosion, landslides, and harmful stream sedimentation.  The DEIS identified over 100 possible slope instability hazard locations along the proposed ACP route.  The Forest Service asked Dominion to provide detailed plans for 10 high-hazard areas with steep slopes, unstable soils, and problematic bedrock types, but, due to Dominion’s lack of a timely response, this information is not in the DEIS.
  6. The proposed use of Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) to cross the Appalachian Trail at the Augusta County–Nelson County line poses a substantial risk of failure and environmental damage, given workspace limitations and the topographic and geologic characteristics of the proposed drilling locations.  The Forest Service has stipulated that its issuance of a permit for the ACP to cross National Forest lands is contingent on the successful completion of the HDD under the Appalachian Trail.
  7. The ACP passes through some of the most scenic locations in the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and would destroy the scenic integrity of these areas.  The DEIS states that the ACP would not meet Forest plan standards for scenic integrity and thus would require a plan amendment to bypass the standards.

You can help protect our National Forests by submitting a comment to FERC that asks the Forest Service to deny a Special Use Permit for the ACP and reject forest plan amendments.  The DPMC encourages you to submit comments that emphasize that the DEIS is incomplete, inconsistent, and incorrect and does not provide adequate information for Forest Service decisions.

You can submit comments to FERC through FERC’s online comment system or send written comments to the following address:

Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426

Be sure to use the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s docket number CP15-554-000 when submitting your comment to FERC, whether you submit electronically or by mail.  The deadline for comments to FERC regarding the ACP on National Forest lands is April 10, 2017.

For more information on how to send comments to FERC, please visit our FERC page.  To view the DPMC’s excellent story map (which contains much more information that the overview presented here) in its entirety, click here




Forest Service Calls for Comments on the Authorization of the ACP on National Forest Lands

The Forest Service is requesting public comments on the authorization of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) on National Forest lands and on the proposed amendments of the Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) that would allow the ACP to be constructed across the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests. 

In order for the ACP to be built across National Forest lands, the Forest Service would need to authorize the pipeline crossing, issue a special use permit, and amend the LRMPs for both National Forests, as the current LRMPs do not permit such large-scale infrastructure construction.  Amendments to the LMRPs would allow the ACP to exceed current Forest Service standards for soils and water, cross the Appalachian trail, remove old growth trees, fail to meet current Scenic Integrity Objectives, and construct access roads in the National Forests.  For more information about the specific amendments to the LRMPs for the National Forests, please see the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the ACP

Comments to the Forest Service regarding the authorization of the ACP through National Forest Lands and the proposed amendments to the LRMPs for the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests need to be submitted to FERC.  You can file comments online using FERC’s eComment feature (for brief, text-only comments) or eFiling feature (for longer comments).  You can also make comments at one of the upcoming public comment sessions or mail comments to FERC at the address below:

Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426

As always, remember to include the ACP’s project docket number when submitting comments to FERC: CP15-554-000.  Comments are due by April 10, 2017 (please note that this deadline for comments regarding the Forest Service’s authorization of the ACP is different than the deadline for comments to FERC regarding the DEIS!). For more information on writing and sending comments to FERC, please visit our FERC page

Please take the time to send a comment to the Forest Service via FERC and let them know that you oppose the authorization of the ACP through National Forest lands and the proposed amendments of the LRMPs for the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests. 

DPMC Posts Reports on Landslides

Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has posted two reports on their Web page that substantiate the dramatically increased probability of precipitation-induced landslides following the extensive excavation associated with construction of the proposed ACP and its related access roads. DPMC says that, “Much of the proposed ACP corridor route and related infrastructure, including access roads, is on slopes greater that 40%, with segments exceeding 58%” – including numerous areas in Nelson County.

The Proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline Route through Little Valley in Bath County, Virginia: An Assessment of Landslide Risk and Slope Stability Factors, prepared by Malcolm G. Cameron, Jr., Coordinator of Geohazards Analysis, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition. This report, submitted to FERC by DPMC, notes the presence of several landslides on both sides of the valley resulting from a heavy rain event in July 2015, ranging in size from small slumps along ravines up to a one-quarter-acre rotational slide that traveled over 450 feet down the upper east slope of Little Mountain. “With slopes averaging 30 to 55 percent and up to over 80 percent combined with unstable soils, any construction involves a high risk of landslides during heavy rainfall events.”

The report also notes that map sheets submitted to FERC by Dominion in August 2, 2016, reveal “a cursory and incomplete documentation of geologic hazards related to slope steepness, bedrock type, and groundwater conditions in the Little Valley area,” and did not identify existing landslides documented in the DPMC report.

The Little Valley/Bath County report “concludes that mitigation efforts by Dominion to avoid slope failures will be difficult or impossible to accomplish in steep mountain areas along the ACP pipeline route. To date, there is no indication that site-specific investigation of landslide risk and development of mitigation or risk-avoidance plans will be completed and made available on a schedule that allows informed agency and public review and comment prior to permitting and construction.”

Landslide Analysis, Monongahela National Forest Flood Event (June 2016), prepared by the USDA Forest Service, Monongahela National Forest. The report analyses 48 landslides that occurred during the flood event of June 23, 2016 in areas with soils, geologies, and slopes of all slope classes similar to the proposed route of the ACP corridor on the Monongahela National Forest. Report conclusions:

  • Flooding and landslides related to storm events are common in the Central Appalachian region, and the June 2016 event should not be considered unusual.
  • Even more stable land forms and geologies are susceptible to landslides under the right conditions (amount and intensity of precipitation).
  • Disturbed soils can be highly susceptible to mass movement resulting in landslides.
  • Forest Service standards and guidelines must be followed when operating on steep slopes and soils that are susceptible to slides.

Last Chance to Comment on MVP DEIS

The comment period for the Mountain Valley Pipeline ends on December 22, 2016. Please sign the petition to Joby Timm, Forest Supervisor of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests opposing “requests to amend the Land and Resource Management Plan for the Jefferson National Forest and the application for a Special Use Permit to allow the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross our public lands.”

You can also make your own comments through FERC’s online system. Instructions are here (note that the MVP docket # is CP16-10-000) and sample comments are here.