Isle of Wight grants easements for gas pipeline expansion

Published 1:10 pm Friday, February 24, 2023

Isle of Wight County supervisors have granted temporary construction and access easements for a natural gas pipeline expansion that will pass through multiple southeastern Virginia localities.

Columbia Gas Transmission LLC, a subsidiary of Canada-based TC Energy unaffiliated with Columbia Gas of Virginia, started the process for obtaining federal approval last year for what the company has termed its “Virginia Reliability Project.” The project entails replacing an existing 1950s-era 12-inch pipeline that passes through the city of Suffolk and Isle of Wight, Surry and Southampton counties with a 24-inch one to meet growing demand for natural gas across the Hampton Roads region.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission solicited public comments on the project’s environmental impacts twice last year, most recently from Oct. 25 through Nov. 25. According to Mary O’Driscoll, a spokeswoman for FERC, the federal agency’s staff plans to complete a draft environmental impact statement in April and will issue a final statement on Sept. 15. FERC and other agencies will then have until Dec. 16 to issue federal authorizations for the project.

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The easements through Isle of Wight will cross the county-owned Blackwater Property, which consists of 2,507 acres of forestland along the Blackwater River. The land is open by one-day or annual permits to residents and non-residents for a variety of outdoor activities, including hunting, and is leased for part of the week during hunting season to hunt clubs.

The supervisors voted unanimously Feb. 23 to grant the easements, accepting Columbia’s offer of $101,822.50 for the acquisition. Per the terms of the company’s agreement with the county, Columbia will leave the access roads it creates in place once their work is finished, which can then be used for easier access to the property by county residents.

The Columbia pipeline will take a different path through the area than the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline Dominion Energy and North Carolina-based Duke energy proposed in 2014 and scrapped in 2020. The Columbia pipeline, if approved, will pass near the towns of Dendron in Surry County, Ivor in Southampton County, and continue past the Blackwater Property between Windsor and the county’s courthouse. The ACP would have passed near the towns of Boykin and Newsoms in Southampton County, bypassed Isle of Wight and passed near Suffolk’s Holland community.