NEW CASTLE – Craig Supervisors have officially voted against the National Forest Service granting permits for a proposed natural gas line to run through National Forest land.
Board members voted unanimously 4-0 at a continued meeting on March 26, with Chairman Fred Craft absent, to oppose the Forest Service agreeing to a special use permit Mountain Valley Pipeline wants. The company is asking to survey potential pipeline paths through portions of the Jefferson National Forest about 14 miles from New Castle.
The paths would require a 75-foot wide easement for the 42-inch buried line, with 125-foot temporary easement during construction.
“The CCBoS strongly objects to any disturbances within these two management areas due to the importance of the JNF and bear habitat to the County,” the resolution reads, in part.
The resolution reminds that the Forest Service denied a similar request for a power line to cross the region in 1996. A Record of Decision dated Dec. 30, 2002, identified “Cultural Attachment and the James spinymussel as deciding factors in denying the development of the power line in routes that closely follow the MVP Alternate 110 pathways.”
Other reasons listed in Resolution R15-29 concern pipeline alternative routes passing close to Dragon’s Tooth and the Appalachian Trail in the county, noting that Dragon’s Tooth is an internationally known destination point for hikers and other tourists to enjoy the region’s natural beauty.
Supervisors directed Craig County Administrator Clay Goodman to transmit the resolution by the Forest Service by April 2, which is the currently scheduled comment period for the special use permit.
Preserve Craig Inc., a local environmental protection group originally started in 1991 to oppose a proposed high-voltage power line that would have run through the county, is also lobbying against the 42-inch gas pipeline. The pipeline as proposed would slash through local farms, residential communities and forests in the county, running on to West Virginia and connecting with a planned route heading to what MVP describes as “markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States.”
Craig County is not mentioned on the original application pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The fact that Craig was only recently added as a possible route disturbs Preserve Craig members, as well as members of the board of supervisors.
A community meeting to explain the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s “open house” process – which will feature individual stations with representatives to explain features of portions of the MVP proposal, and will not have a public comment period – is planned by Preserve Craig the night before the pipeline company’s open house on April 7 at Craig County High School. The Preserve Craig meeting will be at Hutch on Main in New Castle. More information is available on PreserveCraig.org.
Before the supervisors’ meeting last week, Preserve Craig Steering Committee Member Bill Gentry talked with merchant Phil Spence in his store, The Emporium, while looking at a copy of the proposed route of the MVP through Craig County and beyond.
“If they let MVP cut through the National Forest, the pipeline would come right through the middle of Black Diamond,” said Gentry, who is about to start construction on his home in the Black Forest Subdivision in the Craig community of Maggie.
He mentioned environmental aspects that could be endangered by construction of a pipeline, including a nesting pair of bald eagles on John’s Creek.
“Where that nest is – as the eagle flies – is about 400 yards from the pipeline,” said Gentry, who lives in Blacksburg and has owned the 7 acres in Black Diamond for several years, waiting to build.
Preserve Craig co-chairman Bill Wolf told supervisors at the March 26 meeting his group has retained two attorneys, one knowledgeable in Forest Service matters and the other in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposals.
“We are raising money to cover those costs, by selling pipeline opposition signs and some really cool T-shirts: ‘Craig has mussel,’” referring to the native spiny mussel.
Preserve Craig nominated six people who volunteered to serve on a Pipeline Committee to report to the board of supervisors. They are: Cochairmen Wolf and Sam Easterling, Chuck Harris, Bonnie Joyce, Nancy Nemec, Larry Willis, as well as Marge Lewter and Scott Klopfer, who indicated they would be willing to serve if needed.