The Monroe County Landmarks Commission recently submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC. The group opposes the latest proposed route for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which cuts very close to a historic mineral springs hotel.
“Well the reason we really got involved, and at first we weren’t going to get involved, was when they changed the proposed route to the alternate route. It came right through Salt Sulphur Springs Historical district," said Mary Pearl Compton, a former state legislator and a current member of the Monroe County Landmarks Commission.
During the 1800s, the mineral spring waters of Salt Sulphur Springs were famous for their supposed healing powers, and the Salt Sulphur Springs hotel was built in 1820.
The mineral springs are still running at Salt Sulphur Springs, though the spring houses are not open to the public. The resort closed in the 1920s, and was later restored. The hotel is owned by Betty Farmer, who hosts events inside the ballroom and many weddings outside on the lawn.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a proposed 300-mile line that would transport natural gas from Wetzel county to Virginia.
MVP recently released a new alternative route, which puts the pipeline through a hill that sits just behind the historic Salt Sulphur Springs hotel. The gas pipeline would be buried, but the historic commission says they don’t want the pipeline to run within view of this historic district. They say the 75 foot right of way that would be cut along the route would affect the view from the historic district. They also say they’re concerned that the construction of a 9 food deep trench would obstruct the flow of the mineral springs underground.
At first the historic commission didn’t want to get involved in the pipeline debate. But the alternative route would run too close to areas that Compton says Monroe County residents value culturally. Aside from the Salt Sulphur Springs resort, this would also include the Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory on Peter’s Mountain, the Potts Valley Rail Trail, and the historic community of Waitville.
“We believe that this is not the right route and that another route should be selected. Because the cultural attachment to Monroe County and to a lot of West Virginians and people all over the country. Not only the cultural impact but particularly the historical impact,” said Compton.
Another concern for many of the county's residents is that the area’s porous karst topography makes this a dangerous location for a pipeline. That’s because under the ground here are many many sinkholes, streams, and caves. One example of the karst in Monroe County is Scott Hollow Cave, which is the third-longest cave in West Virginia with a length of 24.7 miles.
Mountain Valley Pipeline Company spokeswoman Natalie Cox says that her company is in the early phases of surveying, and that EQT company that would be constructing the pipeline does have experience building pipelines through karst.
“It can be constructed safely and it could be maintained safely, in this type of topography. And what Mountain Valley has done is to hire a third party karst topography expert, if you will, to do analysis along not only the proposed route but the alternative routes as well.”
That engineering consulting company is Draper Aden Associates, located in Blacksburg, VA.
Meanwhile, the Mountain Valley Pipeline Company has other issues before it can continue to survey the proposed and alternative pipeline routes. Last month, MVP filed suit against 103 West Virginians, demanding access to their land for surveying. The result of this case would likely create a precedent for future eminent domain cases like this one in West Virginia.
According to the Mountain Valley Pipeline website, the company is still planning on sending its formal pipeline proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by October of this year. MVP says they plan to begin construction in late 2016.
According to an economics benefit report that MVP commissioned by FTI Consulting, the pipeline is projected to generate about 8,000 jobs in West Virginia between 2015-2018.