The News Virginian
by Bob Stuart
WAYNESBORO — The Virginia Outdoors Foundation earlier this week approved Dominion Energy's donation of more than 1,100 acres in Nelson and Highland counties to convert to open space easements.
The approval by the foundation took place on Monday.
The utility offered the Rockfish River property in Nelson County and Hayfield Farms in Highland County to offset the crossing of 10 VOF conservation easements by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route. The pipeline route will cross the existing easements in Bath, Highland, Augusta and Nelson counties that cover roughly 53 acres.
The initial pipeline route crossed only one open space easement, but rerouting was done in part to protect endangered species such as the Cow Knob Salamander in Augusta County and the Cheat Mountain Salamander in West Virginia.
Open space easements protect undeveloped lands from development.
Dominion Spokesman Aaron Ruby said the utility is also providing $4 million to VOF for stewardship of the donated land. Ruby said the funds "will provide for long-term maintenance of the properties."
The 85-acre Nelson property is located along the Rockfish River. The 1,034 acres of Hayfield Farms in Highland County is directly adjacent to a wildlife management area.
"The 1,100 acres of pristine land we're donating to the VOF is more than 20 times greater than the 50 acres impacted by our pipeline crossings. We firmly believe this is consistent with the VOF's mission and will advance the goal of expanding land conservation in Virginia," Ruby said in announcing the VOF decision.
The proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline gained a certificate of approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week. The ACP route is 600 miles long, starting in West Virginia and traveling through Virginia before ending in North Carolina. Approximately 55 miles of the pipeline route includes Augusta County. In making its approval, FERC noted that 96 percent of the natural gas capacity of the pipeline has already been committed.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline also received FERC approval.
Water quality certification meetings regarding the pipeline are scheduled for December before the Virginia State Water Control Board.
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