Atlantic Coast Pipeline Set To Destroy Old-Growth Forest
“At least three hundred trees, older than this nation, will be destroyed if the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) comes through this ridge on our property,” Bill Limpert lamented. We were walking his part of Jack Mountain in Bath County, Virginia. I could smell the old-growth forest as we walked under the towering sugar maples, shagbark hickories, and chestnut oaks. The branches create a cathedral canopy seventy feet over our heads.
Bill and his wife, Lynn named this part of Jack Mountain, Miracle Ridge because it gives them a spiritual feeling, walking among the giant trees. I could not believe how steep the land was in every direction. The top of this ridge, or spur leading up Jack Mountain, is a forty-six percent slope. The side slopes are steeper. The one to the north is a seventy-eight percent slope. A human cannot walk on land this steep. If I dared to step off to the north, I would almost free-fall to the canyon floor one-hundred feet below. The planned ACP will unearth a swath of mayhem three-thousand feet long and at least one-hundred and twenty-five feet wide through the Limpert’s property.
Too Steep for the Pipeline
“When this ridge leaves our property it gets even steeper,” Bill said. “The timber up there has never, ever, been cut.”
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Energy’s forty-two-inch, fracked-gas pipeline, is planned to come up this ridge and cross Jack Mountain. They will have to cut down thousands of old-growth trees, clear a swath 125 feet wide, and dig a trench ten-feet deep in the steepest terrain I have ever walked on in Virginia. It will cause the most irresponsible, environmental damage to this forest—ever. Loggers never touched it because it is so steep.
Native Trout Waters Will Be Damaged
All of the streams born on this land drain to Little Valley Run, a wild, native trout stream. If constructed, the sediment leaving the site will destroy the aquatic habitat necessary for Brook Trout to survive. Without the trees to provide shade, the water will heat up which can also affect trout survival. The waters of Little Valley Run empty into Bolar Run, another native trout stream, then into the Jackson River, followed by the James River and into the Chesapeake Bay.
Ona is 300 Years Old
We stopped at one of the largest sugar maples in the path of the pipeline. Lynn Limpert named it Ona. It’s between 260 and 300 years old. Here, we talked about all the folks that have come to see this forest, feel its energy, and ponder the plunder.
Bill retired from the Maryland Department of Environment in 2010. He was an Area Supervisor for erosion and sediment controls on constructions jobs. He knows what he is talking about when he says the erosion and sediment control plans for this pipeline are woefully inadequate. “Dominion and DEQ should not attempt this,” he says.
Environmentalists Sue Virginia’s DEQ and State Water Control Board
Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) holds the pipeline builders to lowest possible erosion and sediment control standard—a two-year storm frequency. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Appalachian Voices, Jackson River Preservation Association Inc., and many other environmental organizations sued the Virginia DEQ and the State Water Control Board for being arbitrary and capricious when they issued the 401 certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In short, the erosion and sediment controls for this massive pipeline are woefully inadequate to protect Virginia’s streams from sediment pollution.
The case, Appalachian Voices v. State Water Control Board, was heard on September 28, 2018, by the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. The panel of three judges has not ruled as of this writing.
Dominion’s Disrespect For Those In Its Way
The worst part of this saga may not be the insane notion of destroying the mountain by constructing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline but how Dominion has treated the Limperts, and many others in their way—with disrespect, unanswered questions, a subpoena to appear in court, and silence.
Survey crews damaged the Limpert’s property, Dominion forced them into court, and generated reports that are, “inaccurate, evasive, and misleading,” according to the retired soil erosion inspector.
The Limperts have not accepted any offers from Dominion to compensate them for taking their land. There is no way to set a value on this needless, unwanted, and reckless destruction. They fear that they will receive a condemnation letter any day so Dominion can take their land by eminent domain.
“It’s been an ongoing nightmare,” Bill tells me.
What has our country come to?
A corporation can take your land by eminent domain—for profit. The pipeline builders can injure, maim, and kill federally endangered species. Construction of pipelines have caused landslides and sediment filled streams and roads, violating Virginia’s water quality standards. They ask the courts for “quick-take condemnation” of private land. I have seen them bring in outsiders to speak at hearings. They use “placeholders” in lines at hearings to prevent local people from speaking. Dominion paid in advance for “any and all future damages.” Dominion Energy has a long history of disregard the law.
Take, take, take is their credence.
We Shall Overcome
The firehose of corporate greed taking place across this country must be stopped. We must vote and support the environmental groups fighting on the land and in the courts. There are so many people, like the Limperts, being bullied and taken advantage of by corporations like Dominion Energy. Finally, we must continue to resist, peacefully demonstrate, and stand our ground like the Limperts—true heroes for property rights and water quality.
To learn more, contact me, or any number of environmental organizations fighting to keep our water clean and property rights unviolated.
The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance has a long list of organizations opposing the pipelines. Please join us.