ROANOKE — The U.S. Department of Agriculture Monday released its decision that updates its environmental analysis which address new information and allows the construction of Mountain Valley pipeline on 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest.
No construction, however, can occur on forest lands until the company has obtained all federal and state authorizations.
The USDA Forest Service issued a final Record of Decision that amends the Jefferson National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) to allow Mountain Valley Pipeline project to move forward.
The decision follows review of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that addressed new information and changed circumstances.
It redeems the Forest Service’s commitment to ensure the pipeline minimizes impacts and meets standards for sustainability and conservation of natural resources on the national forests.
The Record of Decision modifies certain standards in the Forest Plan to accommodate the pipeline construction and requires measures to minimize environmental impacts.
The Forest Service will also provide a letter of concurrence for the MVP Project to the Bureau of Land Management.
Mountain Valley, however, is not authorized to undertake activities related to construction on national forest lands until the company has obtained all federal and state authorizations outstanding for the entire project.
The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for approving pipelines that cross federal lands under the jurisdiction of two or more federal agencies but must have the concurrence of the involved agencies.
These actions are necessary steps for the MVP project to be built on national forest and grasslands.
The Forest Service published the Final SEIS on Dec. 11, 2020. The Final SEIS addresses new information and changed circumstances, such as new federally listed threatened and endangered species and critical habitat designations, as well as the Fourth Circuit Court’s 2018 ruling vacating the BLM’s Right-of-Way and the Forest Service’s Forest Plan amendment.
In addition, the Final SEIS considers erosion, sedimentation, and water quality effects, and applies the Planning Rule requirements for soil, riparian resources, and threatened and endangered species to the Forest Plan amendments.