Pipeline analysis dramatically underestimates forest impacts, state agencies report business roanoke.com gas x extra strength vs ultra strength


In addition, the filing noted that “impacts of forest fragmentation on a diverse suite of forest ecosystem services is not thoroughly acknowledged, analyzed, nor quantified” in the final environmental impact statement for the Mountain Valley Pipeline released by FERC on June 23. And the agencies recommended measures that could help compensate for related damages to intact forests.

On Friday, Diana Christopulos, president of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, alerted FERC that the club is “very disappointed in the FEIS treatment of forest fragmentation,” which is defined as the breaking of large, contiguous forested areas into smaller, disconnected pieces.

FERC’s final environmental impact statement concluded that construction and operation of the pipeline “would result in limited adverse environmental impacts, with the exception of impacts on forest.” FERC found that those impacts would be significant, in part because of the total acres of forest affected, the quality and use of forest for wildlife habitat and the time it would take to restore areas cleared during construction.

Specifically, the filing by the Department of Conservation and Recreation said the Virginia Forest Conservation Partnership’s forest fragmentation analysis of pipeline-related effects determined that the project would impact 16,661 acres. In contrast, Mountain Valley’s analysis of direct and indirect fragmentation effects anticipated impacts to 3,993 acres, reported the partnership, which includes staff from the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Forestry and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The filing with FERC noted that forest cores “provide valuable ecosystem services” that include protections for air and water quality, erosion prevention and sediment retention, groundwater recharge, carbon sequestration and oxygen production, temperature regulation, and protection from storm and flood damage. Intact blocks of forest also provide important wildlife habitat and encourage biodiversity, the agencies said.

“The Forest Service position is that FERC’s final EIS adequately discloses the effects of forest fragmentation attributable to the construction of the MVP,” he said, noting that the statement identified “ecological core areas” that would be impacted by the Mountain Valley project.

Yet the agencies said Mountain Valley’s analysis focused primarily on impacts of the project’s permanent right-of-way and noted that trees and other vegetation would be re-planted on the temporary right-of-way. But the state filing observed that “the new forest that would eventually mature — in the temporary right-of-way — would not be equivalent to the forest before pipeline disturbance.” Permanent changes in habitat are inevitable, the state said. ‘Fragmented’ forests

Long, linear disturbances through forests associated with utility infrastructure projects create new “edges” — places where once-contiguous forests suddenly experience more intense exposure to sun and wind. The agencies said that plant and animal species within newly created edges “experience hotter and drier conditions to which they may not be adapted.”

New edges also can enable the spread of non-native and invasive plants. “Weeds can thrive with little competition from woody plants,” the state said. “New pests and pathogens, invasive plant species and predators are thus introduced to the forest communities.” The disruption to the forest’s ecological functions can have impacts more than 328 feet into adjacent forest, the filing said.

When pipeline rights-of-way travel through intact forests, the corridor can create smaller patches of forest that might draw some species that will fail to reproduce in the diminished patch “due to predation or lack of critical resources,” the state said. Proposed mitigations

It concludes by reporting that state agency staff “strongly recommends that [Mountain Valley Pipeline] both provide a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of forest fragmentation and provide a plan to adequately mitigate those impacts to Virginia’s forests.” Funding mechanisms

“This process is still unfolding,” said Shannon Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Conservation and Recreation. “The commonwealth, the project developer and FERC are still working through assessment of impact and appropriate mitigation.”

Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for Mountain Valley Pipeline, responded by email to the July 21 filing. “The MVP team appreciates DCR’s position in the department’s recent filing and looks forward to continuing to work with state and federal agencies to evaluate the proposed project’s impacts and develop plans to mitigate those impacts,” she said.

Carl Zipper, an environmental scientist, lives less than one mile from a proposed pipeline route in Montgomery County. He noted in a 131-page filing with FERC on July 25 that the final environmental impact statement’s failure to include what he described as practicable and effective mitigation practices for adverse effects to forests leaves FERC vulnerable to a legal challenge under the National Environmental Policy Act.