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AN EXPERT REPORT ON GEOLOGIC HAZARDS IN THE KARST REGIONS OF VIRGINIA AND WEST VIRGINIA (2016)
The proposed corridor of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) passes through a significant area of karst as it crosses the mountainous Valley and Ridge Province (the Appalachian Fold Belt) in Summers and Monroe counties, West Virginia and Giles, Craig, Montgomery, and Roanoke counties in Virginia. Karst is a landscape that is formed by the dissolving of bedrock. Severe karst can create hazards for structures that are built on or across it. The environment, both on the surface and in the subsurface, is more easily degraded in karst than in most other terrains. Karst poses severe constraints on engineering, construction, and maintenance of large-scale structures built upon it or across it. Moreover, the karst in this mountainous region is much different than that in other areas. Siting a pipeline through the Appalachian karst poses significantly greater hazards than in karst areas where the terrain has lower topographic relief.
Karst is a critical factor in siting and management of a high-pressure gas pipeline such as the one proposed. However, other potential hazards such as land instability, weak soils, and potential seismicity are also highly significant in this region. When two or more of these elements act together, the resulting environmental threat from the pipeline is compounded and exacerbated.
The conclusion of this report is that the karst and associated hazards constitute a serious incompatibility with the proposed pipeline. The effect of these threats on the emplacement and maintenance of the line, as well as the potential hazards of the line on the natural environment, renders this region as a ‘no-build’ zone for the project.
FERC DOCKET CP16-10-000 Prepared as a Deposition of Record for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on behalf of Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (The POWHR Coalition)
Radford University (Retired) Professional Geological Consultant