The Conservation Column
By Pepper Trail and Juliet Grable
In early January, the Oregon Department of State Lands held a series of hearings on the Removal-Fill permit for the Jordan Cove Energy Project. The State requires that any person or entity planning to remove or add material to a wetland or waterbody must obtain such a permit, the purpose of which is “to ensure protection and the best use of Oregon’s water resources for home, commercial, wildlife habitat, public navigation, fishing and recreational uses.”
The DSL hearings gave citizens the opportunity to submit public comments, which were limited to two minutes each The hearings were well-attended, and the vast majority of speakers were opposed to the project and urged the DSL to deny the permit. The DSL is also taking written comments until February 3. Comments may be mailed, faxed or emailed; for more information, please visit this link: https://www.oregon.gov/dsl/WW/Pages/jordancove.aspx
Following is the letter RVAS submitted to the Oregon DSL.
To: Oregon Department of State Lands
Re: Application APP0060697
Removal-Fill Permit for the Jordan Cove Energy Project
Carol Mockridge, President
Rogue Valley Audubon Society
PO Box 8597
Medford, OR 97501
Dear Mr. Lobdell:
Please accept the following comments on behalf of the Rogue Valley Audubon Society (RVAS), a chapter of the National Audubon Society with over 600 members in Jackson County.
We urge the Oregon Department of State Lands to deny the Removal-Fill permit for the Jordan Cove Energy Project (Application APP0060697). The Jordan Cove pipeline and terminal threaten catastrophic negative impacts on the waters of Oregon, and the Department of State Lands has a clear legal obligation to deny this permit. These comments will focus on the first criterion that DSL must evaluate, namely whether “the project is consistent with the protection, conservation, and best uses of the water resources of the state.” Clearly, the Jordan Cove project fails to meet these requirements.
Construction of the pipeline is not consistent with the protection and conservation of Oregon’s water resources.
The 229-mile Pacific Connector pipeline would impact Oregon rivers, streams, and wetlands at a minimum of 485 different locations. Of these, 326 are perennial and/or intermittent waterways, seven are lakes and/or ponds, two are estuarine waters, and 150 are wetlands. Techniques for the crossing of wetlands and waterways would include trenching, blasting, fluming, dam and pump, horizontal directional drill (HDD), and other methods. In addition, 95-foot construction easements and 50-foot permanent easements will be created along the pipeline’s full length, and in some places roads will have to be built or widened to gain access to these easements.
Each stream crossing will require removal of riparian vegetation and some combination of dredging, damming, and water diversion. These activities will degrade water quality and aquatic habitat by increasing sediment, by disrupting streambeds essential as habitat for aquatic invertebrates and for fish spawning, by increasing streamside erosion (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, determined that the pipeline would cross over 93 miles of soils with “high or severe water erosion potential”), and by raising water temperatures due to removal of shading vegetation.
The pipeline would cross the Klamath River, Lost River, Rogue River, South Umpqua River, Coquille River, and Coos River, as well as such major tributaries as Little Butte Creek, Salt Creek, Cow Creek, Days Creek, both North and South Myrtle Creek, Ollala Creek, and Elk Creek. In all, over 100 streams that would be crossed by the pipeline are fish-bearing, with many home to at-risk populations of salmonids.
Salmonids require cold, clean water to thrive. Warm temperatures can be lethal to young salmon, and fluctuating temperatures can cause physiological stress. Salmonids are keystone species that bring vital nutrients into terrestrial ecosystems, helping sustain both flora and fauna. Dozens of species, including many birds, forage on fish eggs, juveniles, and adults, dispersing these nutrients into the forest. Healthy rivers and streams make for healthy salmon runs, which in turn make for healthy forest ecosystems which support a diversity of creatures.
The Rogue, Umpqua, and Coquille Rivers are world-famous destinations for salmon fishermen. Much of the Umpqua, Coquille, and Coos watersheds are designated critical habitat for the federally-listed Oregon Coastal Coho salmon. The FERC analysis concluded that the federally endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers would also be adversely affected by the pipeline.
Horizontal directional drilling can cause frac-outs.
Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is proposed to take the pipeline under three major rivers — the Coos, Rogue, and Klamath — and to make two large crossings at the Coos Bay estuary near the LNG terminal. During HDD, a pilot hole is filled with drilling fluid to keep it from collapsing. But “frac-outs” — unintentional releases of mud and drilling fluid which occur when the drilling hole is overpressurized— can smother vegetation, fish eggs, and other organisms near the drilling sites.
In a previous application to FERC, the company rejected using HDD to cross the estuary, citing the length of the crossing, underground topography, and the presence of potentially unstable soils as factors that make the process riskier. Instead, they initially planned to cross the estuary just once, using the “wet open-cut” method.
Yet Jordan Cove has not explained why, if they determined that HDD was not feasible then, why it would be now, especially since they’re relying on the same set of geological test bores as before.
Pipeline construction may impair water quality and harm drinking water supplies.
Although Pacific Connector Pipeline is required to obtain approval for construction practices which protect water-ways, RVAS is concerned that these will be inadequate and in any case dependent on proper implementation, maintenance and oversight, which are often lacking. To support our concerns, we summarize below recent documented water quality violations for several pipelines under construction in East Coast and Atlantic states:
Atlantic Coast Pipeline: The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection cited the owners of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for failing to maintain erosion control devices and failure to uphold the state’s water quality rules by allowing sediment-laden water to collect at the bottom of a tributary.
Mountain Valley Pipeline: A watchdog group has identified over 150 water quality violations on the construction of the Mountain Valley pipeline. In many cases, approved erosion and sediment control devices were overwhelmed by storms, allowing sediment to pollute multiple waterways.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued several notices of violation to Mountain Valley Pipeline, Inc. for unsatisfactory sediment control, and on July 9, 2018, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued a comprehensive notice of violations to EQT Corp, which owns the pipeline, citing viola-tions of the Virginia Stormwater Management Act, the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Law, the Virginia Water Protection Permit Program and the Clean Water Act. Specific violations include failure to build approved erosion and sediment control structures, failure to repair damaged sediment control facilities, and inadequately maintained erosion control devices, which released sediment-laden water into two streams. In addition, the notice cites areas where stormwater overwhelmed barriers and flowed into four streams.
Rover pipeline: In 2017, the State of Ohio sued Rover Pipeline LLC for “illegally discharging millions of gallons of drilling fluids into the state’s waterways” and for harming a wetland that requires the state’s highest level of protection. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has served the company with multiple notices of violation and two cease-and-desist orders for failing to maintain erosion controls and for improperly installed silt fences and other perimeter controls. The company has agreed to pay the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection $430,000 for water pollution violations in the state, but in our view, no dollar amount can be placed on water resources, and the damage was already done.
We do not believe it is possible to guarantee that these types of incidents will not occur during the construction of the Pacific Connector pipeline, and that aquatic habitat and drinking water sources, including private wells, will not be threatened.
The creation of the LNG terminal will fundamentally reshape the bay.
The impacts of the Jordan Cove project to Coos Bay and its estuary are equally severe and unacceptable. Creating the access slip and terminal on the North Spit of the Coos Bay estuary, as Pembina has proposed, would require scooping out 5.7 million cubic yards of material — over half a million dump-truck loads. The existing navigation channel through the estuary would be widened, converting high-quality shellfish habitat into less productive deep water zones, and the presence of LNG tankers would limit access to boaters — an important public trust right. Over 25 acres of intertidal and subtidal habitat would be destroyed, and although mitigation is proposed, the restoration of ecological function in such habitats is notoriously difficult.
Additional Concerns: Climate Change and Earthquake Hazard
In closing, we are compelled to mention two additional points that may be outside the scope of this DSL review, but which should by themselves compel the rejection of this project.
The Jordan Cove project would effectively become the biggest fossil fuel polluter in Oregon, stimulating hundreds of additional fracking wells in Canada and Colorado and adding to the burden of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Fracking activity releases methane, a greenhouse gas which is many times more potent than carbon dioxide. We should be doing everything we can to limit emissions. This project goes against Oregon’s stated greenhouse gas goals and will contribute to the climate change conditions that are producing devastating wildfire seasons and harming our health and our environment.
Finally, the only comment to be made about any proposal to locate a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Oregon coast adjacent to a populated area vulnerable to the great Cascadia earthquake is: insane.
We urge you to deny the Removal-Fill permits and protect the waters of Oregon, and the creatures and communities that depend on them.