Pipeline’s proposed route adjusted

Published 12:06 am Saturday, October 31, 2015

The companies working together in pursuit of a major natural gas pipeline that would stretch from West Virginia into North Carolina, with a spur into Hampton Roads, have submitted an amended plan that includes a new Suffolk route that would avoid crossing any part of the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC submitted the amended plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday. Although work on the plan for the proposed pipeline has been ongoing for months, ACP only submitted its formal application to the FERC on Sept. 18.

The 564-mile interstate natural gas transmission pipeline, officials stated in a news release, is “designed to meet the need for cleaner electricity generation, satisfy the growing demand for natural gas to heat homes and businesses, and promote consumer savings and economic growth.”


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The changes, according to the ACP press release, would “minimize impacts of the proposed route on several environmental, historic and public land issues.”

The new Suffolk route would roughly parallel Route 58 before turning abruptly north and then looping around Lake Meade and south of Lake Prince before turning south again beyond Nansemond Parkway and rejoining the originally proposed route as it parallels Route 58 and finally skirting the northern edge of the swamp in Suffolk and Chesapeake, where it would reach its proposed terminus near the intersection of I-464 and Military Highway.

The new route swoops well north of the downtown area, adding about 4.2 miles of buried pipeline to 564-mile project. The adjustment also means the pipeline would not impinge on the Sunray Historic District in Chesapeake, an early 20th-century immigrant farming community listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The original plan would have had the 20-inch Hampton Roads spur skirting just south of historic Suffolk.

Whereas the newly proposed route would not impinge on the Dismal Swamp, it would cross 1.2 miles of wetlands and four and a half miles of the Western Branch Reservoir watershed, including two actual water crossings there, according to the ACP filing with the FERC.

The reservoir crossing would be underground, with a horizontal directional drill boring a tunnel for the tube below the floor of the reservoir, according to ACP.

During a meeting of the Suffolk Rotary Club on Thursday, members got a sneak preview of the new route during a presentation by Chet Wade, vice president of corporate communications for Dominion Resources, one of the partners in the pipeline project.

Wade said the new route would likely take the pipeline through a less populous part of Suffolk and that it should not interfere with farmers’ ability to work their land or with most other potential land uses, except for the fact that development right above the pipeline would be prohibited.

The route adjustment, he said, is evidence of the companies’ desire to address environmental and cultural issues, while maintaining their commitment to improving access to natural gas in a part of the eastern seaboard where such access has historically been limited.

“We believe these route adjustments meet the project’s critical need of supplying clean, inexpensive energy to public utility customers while protecting the environmental and cultural resources of communities along the route,” Diane Leopold, president of Dominion Energy, stated in a press release Friday.

“While the route adjustments themselves are minor, they reflect Atlantic’s strong and sincere commitment to listening to project stakeholders at every stage and addressing their concerns to improve the proposed route.”

Other adjustments in the updated filing included one that would reduce potential impacts on Cheat Mountain salamander habitat in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia; one that would use a horizontal directional drill to avoid potential impacts on Cow Knob salamanders and their habitat in the George Washington National Forest; and one that would avoid impacts within a wetland mitigation site and potential impacts on the Warminster Rural Historic District along the James River in Nelson and Buckingham counties.

The FERC is examining the filing to determine the pipeline’s necessity and public benefit. Environmental approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also will be necessary before the companies can begin burying pipeline segments.