Saturday, September 6th, saw a great number of Augusta County residents at the Verona Government Center. The topic of discussion was the Dominion Virginia Power Natural Gas Pipeline that has been much discussed since letters started appearing in citizens’ mailboxes. The letters have been asking landowners to allow Dominion representatives and their subcontractors to come onto their land and survey for the proposed route. This request has not been welcomed by the majority of landowners in Augusta.
The Augusta County Alliance has aided in the dispersal of information and resources for those landowners and other concerned citizens about the pipeline in an effort to support the opposition.
The big topic of the morning was “Karst.” I must admit this was a new term for me. It is defined as a “landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum.” The vast majority of Augusta County is made up of a limestone bedrock. Water runs down and through this porous limestone bedrock and erodes leaving holes or caves and is some cases sinkholes. The Augusta County Alliance warned of the dangers involved with putting a 42″ high pressure natural gas pipeline through this type of topography.
The Alliance also worked to educate folks about writing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in opposition of the pipeline. You can learn more about their efforts at the Augusta County Alliance website.
I have been skeptical of the pipeline since it was proposed. I have been concerned about the potential dangers that this pipeline poses to the county and its residents. The original route went right through the Stuarts Draft water protection area. This area is protected and restricted in many ways because this is the only source of water that serves the Stuarts Draft community.
As the chairperson of the Augusta County Service Authority, I have expressed serious concern with the original route. Now that Dominion has changed their route, I have many of the same concerns as the route still passes close to many protected underground water areas that, if contaminated, would render the supply unusable for drinking water. The new route also passes dangerously close to the Stuarts Draft school complex. It completely bisects many properties in the Beverley Manor and South River District, severely restricting future use of the land.
My above concerns don’t even touch on my many concerns related to the loss of property rights that result with the action of eminent domain. Eminent Domain was put into place for the expressed intention of developing utilities and roadways that an immediate community could use and would result in a local benefit. I am proud to say that, in the time that I have served on the Board of Supervisors and on the Service Authority, we have never used or threatened the use of eminent domain. I believe we will get farther with residents if we work openly with them and treat them fairly. If someone doesn’t want to sell their land, then they shouldn’t have too. It is the burden of the government or public utility to respect property owners while trying to fulfill the need that is seen. I remain vigilant in my commitment to the principle of property rights. I own property and wouldn’t want to have that taken away from me. I respect those who feel the same.
I will continue to push for the rights of the property owners and their wishes. I will continue to speak up and oppose a route that comes dangerously close to our public facilities such as schools and our natural resources. I will oppose a route that cuts right through our communities and robs landowners of their assets value. I will continue to listen and continue to work with all involved in the hopes that this pipeline could not be built in Augusta County, but if it must, than I will fight for the safest and most remote route possible. I will also push for Dominion to contribute to our Fire & Rescue departments so that our career personnel and volunteers can receive the appropriate training and equipment should the worst happen.
As always I am available for questions or comments at DavidKaraffa@comcast.net. It is a pleasure to serve you. Thank you.