WV and VA Groups Challenge the Jefferson National Forest Draft Decision

The US Forest Service (FS) has the authority to issue its own decision regarding the proposed MVP route through the Jefferson National Forest (JNF). The route crosses the Appalachian Trail (AT) in the JNF on Peters Mountain near Lindside, WV.

In making its decision, the FS is compelled to consider the effects of its decision not only on the public lands within the boundaries of the JNF, but also on neighboring land. The Peters Mountain crossing at this location, on steep slopes above a significant unmapped karst complex near the Rich Creek Spring and Cave, has been the source of concerns and comments by ICWA as well as Monroe County officials and the Red Sulphur Public Service District. Groups in Giles, Craig and Montgomery Counties in Virginia are also challenging the proposed MVP route because of similar environmental issues.

During much of the review process, the FS staff provided important critiques of MVP’s flawed application. However, in June 2017, the FS issued a Draft Record of Decision (DROD) that would amend the Jefferson National Forest Plan to allow MVP construction on very steep slopes (adjoining wilderness areas), entailing massive erosion, cutting of old growth forests, damage to the AT and viewsheds, increasing invasive species problems, among other negative impacts. While the DROD drops the initially proposed amendment to create a 500-foot “utility corridor” over Peters Mountain, simply allowing the MVP to be constructed at this location ensures that other pipelines and utility lines will follow.

This decision flies in the face of the information we all have been submitting to them for decades, and in fact, since Common Ground and the Border Conservancy fought the APCO power line. This Forest Service decision overturns the 2002 Forest Service Record of Decision that this area is not an appropriate site for a utility corridor. Monroe County fought for and has relied upon that decision to protect Peters Mountain, its water, viewshed and the social fiber of our community.

The DROD ignores evidence about “no-build zone” hazards, risks to critical water resources and impacts to the unique cultural landscape resource of Peters Mountain. It ignores the evidence of experts such as karst specialist Dr. Ernst Kastning, hydrogeologist Dr. Pamela C. Dodds and cultural anthropologists Dr. Rebecca L. Austin and Ginny Bengston, authors of the cultural attachment study undertaken at FERC’s direction and sponsored by MVP. Read their reports here.

The Forest Service failed to provide a public comment period, hold any public meetings, or place their proposal on the FERC docket, instead placing a Notice in the Federal Register on June 5, 2017, 82 Fed. Reg. 25761. The FS Draft Record of Decision can be viewed here.

ICWA continues to work with other groups to challenge the FS decision. Read comments by ICWA, Save Monroe and The Border Conservancy about the Jefferson National Forest decision here.

Many thanks to those of you who sent letters to the Forest Service during the FERC process and most recently to object to the improperly issued DROD!