Toothpaste goes back in the tube: Duke, Dominion propose restoration plan for former Atlantic Coast Pipeline route

Portions of Donovan McLaurin’s property in Cumberland County, near Wade, had been excavated and clearcut to make way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. (File photo: Lisa Sorg)

Environmental restoration along the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is scheduled to begin this year, including in North Carolina, according to federal filings by the utilities.

Although Duke and Dominion canceled the $8 billion natural gas project last summer, contractors for the utilities had timbered and excavated public and private land along portions of the 600-mile route, even leaving pipeline segments on farm fields.

Had the ACP been built, it would have routed through more than 160 miles of eastern North Carolina, including tribal lands and communities of color. Policy Watch reported last year that areas of Northampton, Halifax, Nash and Cumberland counties had been carved up and clear cut to make way for the project.

The plan includes major restoration on land for the now-defunct compressor station in Northampton County, near the Virginia state line. The plan includes filling trenches and excavated areas, removing storage containers and trailers, as well as spreading topsoil, seed and mulch on some areas. Pipe that has been installed, such as under the Tar River in Nash County, will be left in place because “there would be more environmental disturbance if we were to remove the pipe,” a Duke Energy spokesperson told Policy Watch last summer.

A letter from the utilities to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said that installed pipe will be abandoned in place; some easement agreements on private land will need modified to allow for the pipe to remain.  Felled trees could be left in place or removed, depending on the level of disturbance to habitats.

The Smithfield metering and regulation station would be left as-is because it had been fully built out. (Photo: FERC filings)

A metering and regulation station in Smithfield would be left as is; the site was fully built out. In Fayetteville, that infrastructure had not yet been installed but the land had been prepped for construction with timber mats — essentially a path of cut logs — and fencing. Both will be removed. Topsoil, seed and mulch will be spread on the right-of-way where the pipeline would have been installed. The proposed Pembroke site in Robeson County had the least amount of disturbance, an only a silt fence needs removed.

Restoration plans will be submitted to the NC Department of Environmental Quality in late May, while the US Fish and Wildlife Service weighs in on a biological assessment.

If the plan proceeds as scheduled, clean up and restoration will begin in November and continue through April 2022. The disrupted areas will be seeded and mulched in 2022, with monitoring and maintenance occurring from December 2021 through June of 2023.

FERC is reviewing the utilities’ proposal and could be finished as early as mid-February; the US Army Corps of Engineers must also issue any permits for activities that would affect waterways and wetlands.

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