The native brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a symbol of the best of what remains of wild landscape and intact mountain forests in the central Appalachian Mountain region. Naturally reproducing trout streams are associated with healthy ecosystems, clean water, and above all, relatively undisturbed and undeveloped watersheds.
Brook trout are no longer present in much of their historic range, and further loss seems inevitable, given continuing development pressure and changing climate. Most of the surviving brook trout habitat in the central Appalachians is restricted to small, relatively cool, high-elevation headwater streams.
And now, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is proposed to cut through that part of the central Appalachian region that holds the most promise for conservation of the brook trout and its habitat.
Due to the extreme difficulties associated with pipeline construction across steep mountain terrain, the proposed ACP pipeline corridor is routed to generally follow ridgelines and cross mountains at right angles. While this reduces construction problems, it does not avoid problems associated with erosion and runoff control, slope failure, and unavoidable karst systems in the valleys between the mountains. These risks will be compounded by hundreds of miles of access roads, hundreds of stream crossings, plans for winter-time construction, and requests for exemption from critical environmental standards – such as the time-of-year restrictions on construction designed to protect brook trout during sensitive early-life stages.
Trout Unlimited has developed a Conservation Success Index (CSI) that compiles the best available information on trout species distribution, populations, habitat features, and future threats. One of the outputs of the CSI analysis is a map that shows the location and health of trout populations. This map shows that the proposed ACP would bisect the area with most of the remaining high-integrity brook trout populations in Virginia and West Virginia.
Trout Unlimited has prepared a Story Map on regional brook trout habitat and the potential negative impacts of the ACP and other proposed pipelines. The Story Map, Atlantic Coast Pipeline Monitoring, describes a strategic stream monitoring program under development in partnership with the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and other conservation groups.