US Forest Service 'highly concerned' over proposed pipeline route

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The U.S. Forest Service urged the company behind a proposed pipeline project that would span three states to reconsider parts of their route on Thursday, Sept. 1.

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, D.C., the agency said they were "highly concerned" about the potential impact the project would have on streams in Bath and Augusta counties.

The Forest Service's letter came nearly three weeks after the FERC established a timetable for conducting an environmental review of the 550-mile gas line. While the letter does not condemn the project altogether, it does urge Dominion Energy to further consult with them about the route.

Jennifer Lewis, with the anti-pipeline advocacy group Friends of Augusta, said Dominion should be held to the same standards as everyone else. "We've asked our farmers to fence in their cattle to protect the streams. We've invested a lot of time and money and efforts in various ways to clean up our rivers, clean up the Chesapeake Bay," said Lewis. "Here comes this big corporation to come in and destroy all the work that we've done."

The Forest Service's letter comes as groups like Friends of Augusta plan to increase their presence in the community.

"We're just gonna keep up the pressure," said Lewis. "We're gonna keep up the pressure on our elected officials. We've got an election coming up in November that we're hoping for people to remember to vote 'no pipeline.'"

Dominion released the following response in reaction to the Forest Service's letter:

"As we progress through the environmental review of this project, we will continue working with all coordinating agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, to address concerns and minimize or avoid environmental impacts. We have worked very closely with the Forest Service over the last year to minimize or avoid impacts to environmentally sensitive areas, and we will continue to do so as we move forward."