WOW, October was certainly the time for visiting the highlands that we all love. Traveling through the mountains, as many others that I passed along the way were doing, one could observe Mother Nature’s magical transition from summer to fall. I heard so many comments stating that this certainly was one of the best years for the fall foliage with all its vivid colors. Today as I look out across the mountains and see that we are well into the transition to winter, as most of the leaves have fallen from the trees.
Sadly, we had to cancel the planned Fall Review this year because of concerns with the Coronavirus. That did not stop the continued monitoring of the many activities and issues that continue to affect the Highlands reported here in The Highlands Voice.
Monongahela National Forest Project Reviews
The WVHC Public Lands Committee continues to review the proposed projects in the Mon.
Grassy Ridge Project Environmental Assessment (EA)
Last month I mentioned that the Monongahela National Forest – Cheat-Potomac Ranger District was interested in receiving comments on the Grassy Ridge Project Environmental Assessment (EA).
The Grassy Ridge Project is a 5,545-acre project area located in Randolph and Pendleton counties on the Cheat-Potomac Ranger District and seeks to restore red spruce and regenerate hardwood and spruce-hardwood communities, as well as manage areas for wildlife. The project area is located near Spruce Knob Lake, just east of the town of Osceola. Full information concerning the project can be found at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=56948.
On October 28, WVHC filed specific comments and suggestions concerning the Draft Environmental Assessment. Concurrent with the comment letter, WVHC also submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request for missing information in the Regional Forester Sensitive Species – Wildlife section. On October 30, WVHC participated in a conference call in which it was agreed that the requested information will be posted on the above project site.
The Administration Relaxing of Rules for Oil and Gas Drilling in National Forests
The administration has released its plan to make it easier for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. Forest Service lands, sparking strong complaints from environmentalists. Comments concerning this proposed rule, the associated information collection, and/or the EA were to be received by 60 days from date of publication in the Federal Register. WVHC participated in a letter requesting a 90-day extension to the already-announced comment period related to these regulations to be filed November 2.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Supply Header Project (SHP)
On July 10, 2020, Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc. (DETI) filed a modification to the previous request for an extension of time, requesting a one-year extension for Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) to implement abandonment and restoration of ACP project areas. DETI also reaffirmed its request for a two-year extension of time to construct and place into service portions of the Supply Header Project (SHP), as it continues to evaluate options for use of SHP. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Tuesday, October 27 asked DETI, managing partner for the ACP and SHP, to provide it “a plan for disposition of ACP and SHP, including restoration activities.” The requirements for the plan include all contemplated disposition and restoration activities for the ACP and the SHP. Activities should be identified by pipeline facility and by milepost and must include, at a minimum, the following:
1. A schedule identifying planned initiation and completion dates for all discrete phases of project disposition and restoration activities.
2. Identification of all areas where construction has started but no pipeline has been installed (i.e., areas that have been cleared or graded) and a description of how these areas would be restored.
3. Identification of all SHP components that DETI plans to place into service, and how those facilities would integrate with DETI’s system.
4. Identification of all pipeline segments, buildings, foundations, fences, aboveground piping, belowground piping, and appurtenant facilities that would be removed or left in place. This must include a description how each facility would either be left in place or removed from the site, and what methods or procedures Atlantic/DETI would use to dispose of the materials that would be removed.
5. A plan for the long-term restoration of disturbed rights-of-way. This must identify the entity that will be responsible for completing and maintaining this restoration.
6. Discussion of the status of Atlantic’s/DETI’s consultation with landowners on matters pertaining to project disposition and restoration activities on their property, as applicable, including: a. preferences regarding treatment of pipeline segments that have already been installed (i.e., pipeline to be left in place or removed); b. preferences for removal of felled trees that have not been cleared; and c. preferences on how disturbed areas would be restored, depending on their land use type (e.g., forest, agricultural, etc.).
7. A table showing the federal, state, and local permits and approvals required for land-disturbing activities associated with project disposition and restoration. Include a discussion of the status of all required federal and state government Document Accession #: 20201027-3057 Filed Date: 10/27/2020 2 permit approvals and consultations. Include the agency and individual contacted, the date Atlantic/DETI submitted the application (or a timetable for the Atlantic/DETI submission), or whether Atlantic/DETI have received a permit.
8. The status of all historic properties requiring any further treatment or avoidance measures as well as a schedule and plans for fulfilling any remaining stipulations of the Programmatic Agreement executed to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
9. The status of the implementation of conservation measures and mitigation for ACP and SHP impacts (e.g., tree clearing, ground disturbance) on species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The DETI was given 60 days to respond.
Those are just several of the many issues that WVHC is watching. Enjoy the Highlands Voice as we report on other issues in or affecting the Highlands and please stay safe during the start of the holiday season.