Excerpts from cited content:
ACP must develop a new alternative that avoids Shenandoah Mountain and Cow Knob Salamander habitat. . . . Cow Knob salamander habitat is unsuitable for new utility corridors or roads . . . adverse effects must be avoided, they cannot be mitigated. . . . Habitat fragmentation and deforestation from construction and maintenance of a permanent pipeline corridor would further endanger this sensitive species, found nowhere else on earth.
EXCERPTS FROM KEY REGULATORY DOCUMENTS
Conservation Agreement for the Cow Knob Salamander, 1994, Management Measure 14
- Utility and Transportation Corridors – Because corridors of any size will fragment Cow Knob salamander habitat and isolate populations on either side, new utility corridors must be sited around the SMC-SIA [Shenandoah Mountain Crest Special Interest Area]. When opportunities exist, utility corridors should be closed and allowed to revegetate naturally.
Chapter 4, Design Criteria, Management Prescription Areas, 8E7 – Shenandoah Mountain Crest
- Nearly the entire known range of the Cow Knob salamander (Plethodon punctatus) occurs on the George Washington National Forest. (4-113)
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the George Washington National Forest were the first federal agencies in the Nation to enter into a Conservation Agreement in 1994, under a multi-agency Memorandum of Understanding, designed to keep an at-risk species from needing to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. This Conservation Agreement, and accompanying Habitat Conservation Assessment, serves as the guide for management of the Cow Knob salamander. (4-113)
- These areas [including Management Prescription Area 8E7] are unsuitable for designation of new utility corridors, utility rights-of-way, or communication sites unless there is an over-riding demonstrated public need or benefit. Existing uses may continue unless removal is necessary to protect threatened, endangered, sensitive, and locally rare species.(4-116)
Chapter 4, Design Criteria, Forest Wide Standards, Cow Knob Salamander Management, FW-45,
- If Cow Knob salamanders are found in areas outside the Shenandoah Mountain Crest management prescription area, those areas will be subject to the same management measures as described in the Shenandoah Mountain Crest Management Prescription Area 8E7. (4-5)
EXCERPTS FROM KEY ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW DOCUMENTS
- We have determined that the proposed route does not meet minimum requirements of initial screeing criteria found at 36 CFR 251.54(e)(1)(i) and (ii). The Land and Resource Management Plans for the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests contain standards and guideline to protect highly sensitive resources, including Cheat Mountain salamanders, West Virginia Northern flying squirrels, Cow Knob salamanders, and red spruce ecosystem restoration areas. The enclosed letter outlines specific inconsistencies with Forest Plan direction and other applicable directives that would result with the proposed route.
- ACP’s proposed route variations do not resolve inconsistencies with Forest Plan direction and the Cow Knob Conservation Agreement.
- The pipeline must be routed around areas where Cow Knob salamander habitat is found. Please note that the Conservation Agreement was initiated to protect the species in lieu of federal listing. The Cow Knob salamander was petitioned for listing 2012 by the Center for Biological Diversity, and review is currently underway by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- ACP’s proposal, as filed on October 30, 2015, includes two HDDs which would be connected by pipe installed by the open trench method for a distance of about 0.5 mile. CKS populations and habitat would also be affected in the pullback areas, at drill pad locations, test drilling sites, access areas, and any other area that would affect CKS and their habitats. ACP’s proposal states that 0.7 mile of CKS habitat at or above 2500 feet msl would be affected. This proposal does not fully avoid CKS populations or habitat and remains inconsistent with the CKS Conservation Agreement.
- During a meeting between the Forest Service and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP) held on June 30, 2015, the Forest Service and ACP discussed the feasibility of horizontal directional drill (HDD) as a measure to avoid Cow Knob salamander (CKS) habitat. Discussions included the engineering challenges associated with HDD that often contribute to failure, such as the length of the HDD, elevation of entrance and exit points, drilling mud, frac outs, and required pull back areas. A significant portion of the discussion focused on the length of the HDD required to avoid CKS habitat and if that length of HDD would be feasible given the engineering challenges. No feasibility study or report was provided with the proposal.
- In its October 30 submittal, ACP requested concurrence from the Forest Service and CKS Conservation Team upon completion of the HDD plan, before the work is completed. Concurrence cannot be provided on the basis of the current proposal because the proposal does not fully avoid CKS populations and habitat. If the proposal were modified to fully avoid CKS populations and habitat, concurrence could not be provided until the HDDs have been successfully completed. If the HDDs prove to be infeasible or unsuccessful by any means during testing or implementation, the CKS route variation would no longer be viable. Subsequently, ACP would have to select a route that fully avoids CKS habitat, as stated in the Forest Service’s September 17, 2015 filing. Therefore, the Forest Service would need to assure that CKS habitat would be protected through measures such as conditioning the special use permit and also requesting that FERC condition the order issuing the certificate to require the HDDs in CKS habitat to be completed prior to any other project construction, so that ACP could subsequently select another route in the event the proposed HDDs prove infeasible or unsuccessful.
- Because the Cow Knob HDD [Horizontal Directional Drilling] Route Variation avoids the Cow Knob salamander habitat areas, reduces tree clearing on Shenandoah Mountain and the ridgeline southeast of Signal Corps Knob, addresses concerns regarding OHV access to Signal Corps Knob, and follows the recommendation of the September 17, 2015 USFS letter, Atlantic and DTI have adopted and incorporated this route variation into the proposed route. Atlantic and DTI believe that the Cow Knob HDD Route Variation is consistent with the GWNF LRMP [Forest Plan] and can be approved by the USFS. (10-108)
- In the unexpected event that some Cow Knob salamanders are discovered within the Cow Knob HDD Route Variation, Atlantic proposes that the route is still consistent with the GWNF LRMP. The GWNF LRMP states that areas where Cow Knob salamanders are found are “unsuitable for designation of new utility corridors, utility rights-of-way,or communication sites unless there is an over-riding demonstrated public need or benefit.” GWNF LRMP at 4-116 (emphasis added). (10-108)
- There is an “over-riding public need or benefit” due to the fact that the Projects: satisfy the long-term needs of society as a whole; satisfy a need recognized as critical by both Federal and State governments; address and promote national energy goals; reduce impacts and harms to the public; and implement habitat enhancement measures that will further protect and enhance the Cow Knob salamander and its habitat. A finding of “overriding public need or benefit” will enable the USFS to determine that the Projects are consistent with the GWNF LRMP or to amend the GWNF LRMP to accommodate the pipeline. (10-111)
- Atlantic is proposing the installation of two HDDs [Horizontal Directional Drilling] on and in the vicinity of Shenandoah Mountain. The HDDs will require an adjustment of the proposed route for approximately 4.4 miles in Highland and Augusta Counties, Virginia. The HDDs will avoid impacts on populations of Cow Knob salamanders and their habitat on and in the vicinity of Shenandoah Mountain. Figure 3.2-1 (provided in Appendix B of this filing as Privileged Information) depicts the alternative route, including the locations of the HDDs, relative to the proposed route. Comparative data on both routes is provided in Table 3.2-1
[Note: See sidebar for map of HDD route variation in Shenandoah Mountain area.]
- We provided a copy of the Conservation Agreement for the Cow Knob salamander to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC and extensively discussed our concerns about both the Cow Knob and Cheat Mountain salamanders during a a June 30, 2015 meeting. We clearly stated that project effects on Cow Knob and Cheat Mountain salamanders must b e avoided and cannot be mitigated. We re-emphasized our concerns during a July 7, 2015 meeting.
- The rarity and sensitivity of these species have resulted in federal listing of the Cheat Mountain salamander and in a Conservation Agreement to protect the Cow Know salamander. Because of the potential for serious project-related impacts to the populations and habitats of the Cow Knob and Cheat Mountain salamanders, and also because these impacts cannot be mitigated, it is essential to evaluate alternatives to avoid adverse effects on these two species.
- Cow Knob salamanders were found from the highest point down to 2500′, although they have been seen as low as 2000′ in more protected habitat. (3)
- It was estimated that the loss of habitat from direct clearing and the indirect effect of exposing the forest edge to sunlight, wind, etc. would result in a swath approximately 750′ wide through Cow Knob salamander habitat . . . The pipeline corridor will eliminate gene flow between the north and south part of the populations. (3)
- There needs to be a pipeline alternative that avoids Cow Knob salamander habitat completely. (3)
- The Conservation Team felt that the proposed right-of-way is inconsistent with the Agreement and Assessment [Cow Knob Salamander Conservation Agreement and Assessment] and the Forest Plan. The items below would correct the inconsistency.
- Select a new pipeline route, The route would have to go south of Chestnut Ridge and South Sister Knob, or north of Romney, WV.
- Bore through Shenandoah Mountain (Dominion can directionally drill up to 4000 horizontal feet). . . . It would not avoid all impacts to habitat and salamanders because it would not completely avoid salamander habitat. (3)
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service . . . has been petitioned to list the Cow Knob salamander under the Endangered Species Act. . . . the petition has been found to be substantial and is on the review schedule for 2016, although that was prior to proposal to construct the pipeline through its habitat. The Forest not adhering to the Agreement and Assessment by allowing pipeline construction in Cow Knob salamander habitat would be an important factor when evaluating this species for federal listing. (4)
- Atlantic is conducting surveys for Cow Knob salamanders as discussed in Section 3.7 below, and will continue to consult with VDCR [Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation] regarding the crossing of this site based on the results of the field surveys. (3-50)
- Regarding 8E7 Standard-026 [GWNF Forest Plan], these areas are unsuitable for designation of new utility corridors, utility rights-of-way, or communication sites unless there is an over-riding demonstrated public need or benefit. . . . Atlantic has shown a demonstrated public need and benefit and is seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from FERC for this purpose and need. (3-142)
- In a letter to Atlantic dated February 19, 2015, the VDGIF [Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries] recommended that the AP-1 mainline be routed to avoid cow knob salamander habitats with the GWNF. (3-143)
- Habitat surveys occurred at locations above 2,500 feet in the GWNF, including areas near Signal Corps Knob, Chestnut Oak Knob, and Camp Ridge. . . . To date, approximately 100 Cow Knob salamanders have been identified in the ACP Project area. (3-143)
Atlantic is investigating options for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating potential
impacts on occupied habitat for the Cow Knob salamander. Depending on the terrain and
habitat, these options could include:
- route adjustments to avoid isolated areas of occupied habitat
- utilizing conventional bore, drag section, or stovepipe construction techniques to
narrow the width of the construction right-of-way to minimize tree clearing and
- use of the drag section or stovepipe methods to reduce the duration of
- allowing selected trees and other vegetation to remain in place to maintain
occupied habitat and cover
- workspace modifications and reductions to minimize tree clearing; and
plantings of appropriate species of trees and other vegetation to enhance habitat
- 128. Update section 126.96.36.199 with Cow Knob salamander survey data showing the Cow Knob salamander occurs within the pipeline corridor. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recommended that the route avoid Cow Knob salamander habitat and locations (J.D. Kleopfer, personal communication). Develop alternatives that avoid impacts to the salamander such as 1) completely avoiding Cow Knob salamander habitat and 2) using horizontal directional drill to reduce direct take and habitat loss.
- 129. The following text appears in the draft resource report: “The Cow Knob salamander is recognized as a management indicator species within the GWNF. In 1994, the FWS and the USFS entered into a Conservation Agreement for the cow knob salamander resulting in protection of occupied habitats within the GWNF.” This text does not adequately describe the purpose of the conservation agreement. Replace the text with . . . . [See Forest Service 7/30/15 submission for replacement text.]
- 130. Analyze cumulative effects for the Cow Knob salamander, at a minimum including the effects of roads, rights-of-way, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and population isolation.
- Comment One commenter said that the pipeline will impact intact forest landscapes around Signal Corps Knob, Shenandoah Mountain . . . which have high levels of biodiversity and rare species. Dominion Response . . . the ACP does not cross . . . Signal Corps Knob. (36)
- Comment A comment by the Southern Environmental Law Center said that the proposed
crossing of the Signal Corps Knob area of the GWNF will cause adverse impacts on the Cow
Knob salamander, and that the ACP is not consistent with the 1994 Cow Knob salamander
conservation agreement or the Endangered Species Act. Dominion Response The Cow Knob salamander is not currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. . . . Based on consultation with FWS and USFS staff, presence/absence surveys for the Cow Knob salamander in suitable habitat areas along the proposed pipeline route across the GWNF are being completed. . . . Atlantic and DTI note, however, that the proposed route for the AP-1 mainline avoids the Signal Corps Knob area of the GWNF . . . .(36)
- I am writing to inform you of a survey for Cow Knob Salamanders (plethodon punctatus)
done by my research team in 2008 showing occurrences on Shenandoah Mountain south of Rt. 250 and on Great North Mountain on the crest of both Elliott Knob and Crawford Mountain. These data collected by me and my lab group, with assistance from Fred Huber of the GWNF, extend the range of the Cow Knob Salamander on Shenandoah Mountain as far south as Benson Run and Gwyn Mountain. I am calling your attention to this survey data because the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would pass through this area between Signal Corps Knob and Benson Run. We also found occurrences on Elliott Knob along the original route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline before it was rerouted to the north over Hankey Mountain.
- The Cow Knob Salamander is a woodland salamander with a very narrow range. It is found primarily on talus slopes in old growth hardwood sites, mostly on Shenandoah Mountain in Virginia and West Virginia between 2,400 and 4,300 feet in elevation. . . . Threats include logging, road building, forest fragmentation, and deforestation. My research team has found that roads have a negative impact on Cow Knob Salamanders. If the ACP is built through this area with known populations, it would very likely create a permanent uncrossable barrier that would isolate populations and cut off genetic exchange.
- The Cow Knob salamander is a globally rare species protected under a Conservation Agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the agreement is incorporated into Forest Plan standards, and the Cow Knob salamander is also a MIS [Management Indicator Species]. (14)
- Concerns include direct habitat damage and indirect habitat damage from things like microclimate changes or increased predation. (14)
Conservation Agreement for the Cow Knob Salamander, 1994
George Washington National Forest, Revised Land and Resource Management Plan, 2014
National Forest Scoping Comments on FERC Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS for the ACP, 4/17/15
Letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Reid Harris, Professor of Biology, JMU, 4/18/15
Dominion Transmission, Inc. Responses to Issues Raised During Scoping, 5/12/15
Forest Service Comments Submitted to FERC on Dominion Draft Resource Reports, 7/30/15
Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Resource Report 3 (Final) , Fish, Wildlife, and Vegetation, September 2015
Forest Service Submission to FERC Regarding Cow Knob and Cheat Mountain Salamanders, 9/17/15
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Supplemental Filing, 10/30/15
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Supplemental Filing, Revisions to Resource Report 10, Alternatives, 12/16/15
Forest Service Letter to FERC on Route Variations, 12/19/15
Forest Service Letter to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, 1/19/16
Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Responses to Dec. 4, 2015 Data Request, Q18, Attachment 1, 1/29/16