It’s hard to talk in the same breath about the outstanding natural beauty of the Shenandoah Mountain and the plan to cut through it with an Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Yet the 550 mile Gas Pipeline proposed by Dominion Resources is a real threat to the natural, recreational and water resources in the area. It would drive through the southeastern portion of the Shenandoah Mountain in the Braley Pond – Hankey Mountain area. If the pipeline is approved, this could make a portion of the Shenandoah Mountain Proposal ineligible for designation as a National Scenic Area.
Dominion started the pre-filing process in October 2014 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The clock is ticking and the defense organized by Friends of the Shenandoah Mountain needs our immediate support.
Friends of Shenandoah Mountain (FOSM), is a coalition of organizations, businesses, faith groups and individuals working to protect the central Shenandoah area. Their proposal to establish Congressional designation of a 90,000-acre tract as a National Scenic Area is the result of 12 years of collaboration among 220 diverse forest interest groups, including the Virginia Forestry Association, Ruffed Grouse Society, the Nature Conservancy, National Wild Turkey Federation, Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited, VA Chapter of Backcountry Horsemen of America and the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
FOSM propose two new National Scenic Areas in George Washington National Forest: tens of thousands of scenic acres in Augusta, Rockingham and Highland Counties, and Kelley Mountain – Big Levels in Augusta County.
National Scenic Areas are established by Congress to protect scenic, cultural, historic, recreation and natural resources. The Shenandoah Mountain region, exceptionally rich in biodiversity, is a national treasure. The Appalachian Trail with facilities for camping, fishing, walking, hunting, horseback riding, mountain biking, scenic driving and as a wildlife habitat, is one of the nation’s prime examples of natural heritage. Several species are unique to this location. Millions are drawn to its natural beauty and touristic appeal. Because it is undeveloped, Shenandoah Mountain is one of the darkest areas in the Eastern United States, a popular destination for viewing stars, where it is still possible to view the Milky Way.
When Dominion proposed their route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (shown on their August 20 2014 Augusta and Highland County Maps), perhaps they were unaware of the tremendous natural and cultural resources on our public lands that would be impacted by the pipeline. It is the closest national forest to major mid-Atlantic metropolitan areas such as Washington DC-Northern Virginia-Maryland, Richmond and the Norfolk-Hampton-Chesapeake-Virginia Beach area. As such it serves the recreational needs of about 10 million Americans who live within a 2-hour drive
Picture a 75 feet linear clearing scarring the forest, marching destructively straight through its natural character, fragmenting one of the most undisturbed tracts of forest land in the East, crossing access roads to the popular Recreation Areas with beautiful stocked ponds, picnic areas, campgrounds and several heavily frequented trails. Route 250 would be crossed several times by the proposed pipeline.
The route follows the Dowells Draft Forest Road, across the flank of Hankey Mountain, through the Chestnut Oak Knob Grouse Habitat. It crosses Ramseys Draft, a Class IV native trout stream and the Calfpasture River, some of the cleanest native trout streams in Virginia. Herbicides used to maintain the linear clearing would introduce harmful runoff to these streams. Maintenance of such a permanent linear clearing would prevent young forests from growing. Trucks would drive along the pipeline route in the course of its maintenance.
Pure mountain streams provide municipal drinking water to Staunton, Harrisonburg and numerous towns in the Shenandoah Valley and downstream. The proposed pipeline route passes about a mile from the eastern end of the Staunton Dam Tunnel through Hankey Mountain, which has supplied municipal water to Staunton since the 1920’s. The mile-long tunnel built by men with hand tools and mules could be vulnerable to blasting during pipeline construction, endangering Staunton’s water supply.
If this pipeline is allowed to go through this irreplaceable natural area, fracking is more likely to be introduced in the future.
This area is without question one of the worst possible places to put an interstate gas transmission pipeline. The goal of FOSM is to permanently protect this special area for the benefit of future generations.
You can help!
- Endorse the proposal at www.friendsofshenandoahmountain.org
- Ask a business, organization or faith group to consider endorsing the proposal.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper in support of the Shenandoah Mountain Proposal.
- Write to Kimberly Bose, Secretary Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Washington DC 20426. Refer to FERC Docket # PF15-6
Don’t just leave it to the Friends of Shenandoah Mountain. They need the support of all the friends they can get.