The U.S. Forest Service is issuing a permit to survey a 12.6-mile segment of the George Washington National Forest for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Highland and Augusta counties, in Virginia.
The Forest Service said in a news release that temporary special use surveys for wetlands, water, soil, and suitable habitat for sensitive species, including federally listed threatened and endangered plants and animals will be conducted within the next year. Surveys also will record cultural resources and invasive species.
“The information gathered from these surveys is needed for federal agencies to make informed decisions on whether or not to allow construction and operation of the proposed natural gas pipeline, and if allowed, to avoid, or reduce the impacts to sensitive resources,” Forest Supervisor Tom Speaks said in the release.
He said many of the 7,400 comments the Forest Service received on the survey permit related to concerns about the construction and operation of the proposed pipeline, rather than the surveys.
“It is important to remember that allowing these survey activities does not mean we are allowing the construction of a pipeline,” Speaks said. He said the Forest Service has not received any more requests for surveying National Forest System lands for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a proposed 550-mile long line that would carry natural gas from Harrison County, W.Va., through Virginia to North Carolina.
The pipeline would be 42 inches in diameter and require a 125-foot construction easement and a 75-foot permanent easement.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as the lead federal agency, is holding public meetings and soliciting comments on the construction of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Public meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, March 23, at Elkins High School and 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, at Bridgeport High School.
Gas company Dominion, which is building the pipeline, is holding an open-house meeting from noon-2 p.m. on Monday, March 23, at the Gandy Dancer Conference Center, 359 Beverly Pike, in Elkins.