This email update was sent from the Friends of Wintergreen on May 3 by Jonathan M. Ansell, Chairman, Friends of Wintergreen
Much has happened over the past six weeks regarding Wintergreen and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). This is a brief update of what has occurred and what we can expect over the next few months.
Friends of Wintergreen (FOW), Wintergreen Property Owners’ Association (WPOA) and other groups have initiated legal challenges against FERC and others, but we don't expect these to be resolved for a while. In the meantime, Dominion is proceeding with tree removal and construction as it anticipates these challenges will not succeed or have a material impact on the project.
Regulator Approvals and Meetings
With a few exceptions, Dominion has obtained all the federal approvals and all but Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permits, to begin construction of the 600 mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The ACP also needs some local permits and zoning variances (for such things as equipment storage yards) but these are in process and are not likely to encumber the project.
DEQ is still evaluating water quality, erosion and sediment control issues and does not expect to complete this assessment or issue permits until June.
Friends of Wintergreen and WPOA have been meeting with Virginia's Secretary of Natural Resources, Secretary of Public Safety and DEQ's Director over the past weeks to demonstrate the significant environmental/construction concerns we see at Wintergreen and the urgent need to address the unique safety issues facing the community. These discussions are ongoing and will be expanded to more senior state officials.
WPOA Land and Eminent Domain
FERC has granted the ACP the right to "take" WPOA land under eminent domain. The eminent domain lawsuit issued by Dominion against WPOA last month is currently on hold pending a mediation process between the two parties that will begin shortly. It is expected that the mediation topics will include compensation to WPOA and additional measures required to offset the significant disruption, economic and safety concerns of the community. We believe several important measures will need to be implemented to ensure community safety and the economic sustainability of the community.
One way or the other, WPOA land will be legally “taken”, which is the predicate for Wintergreen landowners to file inverse condemnation lawsuits for damages to their individual properties. More on this below.
The pipeline will be built in stages. Below are the phases relevant to Wintergreen:
In March and April, ACP felled trees along a substantial part of the pipeline right-of-way. This includes land owned by WPOA, which has not granted Dominion a permanent easement per se but has allowed the pipeline company to remove trees as part of a condemnation process that includes mediation.
Wintergreen-area residents can expect to see the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway Horizontal Directional Drill (HDD) at Wintergreen's mountain entrance once the WPOA land is formally “taken” and DEQ issues final permits. Both are expected within the next 60-90 days.
The HDD is expected to require at least one year of round-the-clock construction. Among other requirements, this operation will require 10,000 gallons of water a day, all of which needs to be transported to, and removed from, the work site at Wintergreen.
We understand that ACP is seeking a solution to transport the water using existing pipelines/water infrastructure instead of trucks to minimize local traffic and disruption. If this is not possible, Dominion will require large trucks to haul the water to and from the Wintergreen construction site. It is also not clear how the water, once used, would be safely removed, but we do now that Virginia's DEQ is evaluating this and related aspects of the project.
Other Local Construction
As for the remaining non-HDD Wintergreen and Nelson County tree removal and construction, most will not occur until 2019. Dominion claims construction will be completed by December 2019.
Inverse Condemnation Lawsuits
Owners of nearly 1,000 Wintergreen properties are ready to file inverse condemnation lawsuits against the ACP to recover damages to their property value from the construction and operation of the pipeline. Suits will be filed once full construction begins on WPOA land, which is expected in the next few months.
Now's the time to arrange for an inverse condemnation lawsuit if you haven't already done so. Go here for more information and here to sign up to receive an engagement letter from Waldo and Lyle, eminent domain attorneys. Costs are minimal and are reimbursable if successful.
We will keep you informed of further developments.