[caption id="attachment_11694" align="alignleft" width="300"]<a href="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2016\/03\/County-Commission1.jpg"><img class="wp-image-11694 size-medium" src="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2016\/03\/County-Commission1-300x143.jpg" alt="County Commission1" width="300" height="143" \/><\/a> POCAHONTAS COUNTY RESIDENTS kneeled, sat and stood throughout the county commission room Tuesday as Dominion Technical Consultant Robert Orndorff presented an alternate route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to the commission. Front row: Assessor Tom Lane, County Commission Candidate Jo Debra Gandee; second row: retired Dominion advisor Ben Hardesty and concerned citizen Jeanne Bell. <em>Photo courtesy of David Moore<\/em>[\/caption]\r\n\r\nCailey Moore\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nIt was standing room only at Tuesday's Pocahontas County Commission meeting as interested parties gathered to listen to Dominion Technical Consultant Robert Orndorff present a proposed alternative route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.\r\n\r\n\u201cI know it's a major change for the route in Pocahontas and Randolph counties,\u201d Orndorff explained. \u201cThe reason for the route changes \u2013 and we've talked about this in the past \u2013 is we ran into some issues in the past with the Monongahela National Forest with some endangered species and other habitat issues. We're not abandoning that route, but we are considering an alternate route.\u201d\r\n\r\nRather than cut through the northern end of the county \u2013 and the subsequent habitats found in the Cheat and Shenandoah Mountains \u2013 the pipeline's alternative route would reduce the mileage through the national forests from 28.8 miles to 18.5 miles. However, the change in the pipeline's route would add an additional 30 miles to the project and bring it through the Linwood and Snowshoe area.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe route that you see in front of you will probably change,\u201d Orndorff added. \u201cThis is an evolving process, and the map you have in front of you most likely will change.\u201d\r\n\r\nFollowing Orndorff's presentation, the commission took time to pose questions about the new route and state their opinions.\r\n\r\nCommission President Bill Beard began the discussion by reiterating the commission's support of Dominion's original proposed route that ran through the northern end of the county and had less of an impact, a shorter route and minimal cost effect.\r\n\r\n\u201cFrom my point of view, it had the least impact on the county,\u201d he said. \u201cThe line ran through nine properties, and none of the landowners approached us and opposed it. To myself, I feel like that's the only route I want to support. I've gotten numerous emails from people who are upset about the change and opposing it, and I feel strongly that this alternate route is not what's best for the county.\u201d\r\n\r\nCommissioner David McLaughlin's concern stemmed from the alternate route's increased presence in Pocahontas County and the increased number of landowners who would be affected by it.\r\n\r\n\u201cDue to that huge change and the impact on more private land \u2013 and I'm sure a lot of opposition from those land owners, I'm like Bill,\u201d he said. \u201cI would support the northern route and encourage FERC to reconsider that.\u201d\r\n\r\nCommissioner Jamie Walker rounded out his fellow commissioners' sentiments with a preference for the northern, less invasive route.\r\n\r\nThe conversation was then opened up to the public, and Elk River Touring owner Gil Willis, of Slaty Fork, was one of the first hear callers to express his concern.\r\n\r\n\u201cOne of the most valuable assets to the state, especially this county, is our clean water,\u201d he said. \u201cWe've got two farmers on the commission, and you guys value your water for your livestock. The rest of us, who don't farm, highly value the clean water we have on our property, and for me, that's one of the most valuable assets we have here.\u201d\r\n\r\nIn addition to his concern for the water, Willis pointed out that the alternate route would bring the pipeline between the Linwood Community Daycare and Snowshoe, and have impacts on the land's caves, karst and springs, as well as some of Pocahontas County's more unique aspects \u2013 such as a Civil War burial ground on Valley Mountain Farm.\r\n\r\nPocahontas County Commission candidate Jo Debra Gandee, of Snowshoe, expressed a concern for where the pipeline workers would come from and what they would bring to the county.\r\n\r\n\u201cI am not in favor of the pipeline,\u201d she said. \u201cOne problem I have with it is I have a lot of relatives and friends that work in the pipeline industry \u2013 some in the northern part of West Virginia and some in Ohio. I've talked with them a lot, as has my husband. The drugs and the prostitution that goes with these pipeline jobs is something Pocahontas County can't afford. I think our police problem would escalate so much that I don't know how, as a county, we can afford to control some of the behaviors of the pipeline workers \u2013 who, for the vast majority of them, will not come from this county.\u201d\r\n\r\nAnother commission candidate Ben Wilfong, of Marlinton, brought to the discussion a question concerning property taxes.\r\n\r\n\u201cAs far as the right-of-way compensation for landowners in Pocahontas County, what is an approximate value that you compensate everybody?\u201d\r\n\r\nOrndorff responded by stating, \u201cEvery property that we cross has a different value for a lot of different reasons \u2013 timber versus farming, etc. \u2013 and that's a negotiated issue between each of the individual landowners that we work with."\r\n\r\nWilfong then drew attention to previous tax income numbers \u2013 $5.3 million \u2013 that would begin to decline by almost $100,000 and asked Orndorff to explain the reasoning behind the decline.\r\n\r\n\u201cTypically, it's depreciation,\u201d Orndorff said. \u201cAs an asset gets older, there's a depreciation curve that goes down, so the value of the asset itself is worth less than when it was initially put in the ground. It gets to the point where the depreciation stops, so at some point in time, the value of that asset will stop depreciating and will become a steady number.\u201d\r\n\r\nA number of other concerns were brought up throughout the discussion, including the care and maintenance of the pipeline.\r\n\r\nRetired Dominion advisor Ben Hardesty explained, \u201cThe project in its entirety \u2013 the engineering and the operation is done out of Dominion's office in Bridgeport. It's monitored around the clock for integrity of the pipeline, any types of leaks, surface damage over the pipeline. It's inspected by air, walking, and more or less, electronically monitored at all times. Maintenance is critical, and we have a budget for it that will be managed in West Virginia.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cWe've been operating pipelines for over one hundred and fifteen years,\u201d Orndorff added. \u201cThe methods we use today to ensure the life of the pipelines are superior to methods used in the past. Our intent is to operate this pipeline forever.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe commission made no motion following the discussion, but did acknowledge that the suggestion to draft a letter to FERC requesting a public meeting was a good idea and that it would be considered at its next meeting.\r\n\r\nIn other news:\r\n<ul>\r\n\t<li>The commission approved the Memorandum of Understanding with Mon Power Company to establish a Storm Restoration Staging Site at the northern end of the former Shoe Factory property.<\/li>\r\n\t<li>The agreement between the commission and Inter-State Hardwoods was tabled until Assessor Tom Lane received word from the State Tax Department concerning Inter-State Hardwoods' tax status.<\/li>\r\n\t<li>The commission voted 2-0 to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding between the Pocahontas County Commission and the Pocahontas County Community Corrections Program for the establishment of the Pocahontas County Day Report Center for the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year. Commissioner Walker abstained from the vote due to his conflicting role as PCCCP President.<\/li>\r\n\t<li>The commission agreed 2-0 to apply for a grant through the Division of Justice and Community Services and present the grant application for approval. Once again, Commissioner Walker abstained from the vote.<\/li>\r\n\t<li>Revisions to the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital and the Federal Grants budgets were unanimously approved.<\/li>\r\n\t<li>2016-2017 Budget Work Sessions were scheduled.<\/li>\r\n\t<li>Norman Alderman and John Leyzorek voiced their oppositions to the relocation of Pocahontas County records [prior to 1900] to the West Virginia Department of Culture and History in Charleston.<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\nThe next regular County Commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at 5:30 p.m.