C. Sharyn Magee, President of the Washington Crossing Audubon Society, wrote to the FERC backing up the formal submission from her organization:
Because of the extreme ecological sensitivity of Baldpate Mountain, Washington Crossing Audubon Society opposes routing the PennEast pipeline through the JCP&L power line cut that bisects Baldpate
Mountain. An outlier of the Sourland Mountains, Baldpate Mountain contains some of the richest biodiversity in New Jersey. Southern and northern species meet at Baldpate, enriching the flora and fauna. Due to the high quality habitat and the mingling of southern and northern species, Baldpate Mountain has the highest concentration of breeding Neotropical migrants in New Jersey. The thirty-one Neotropical breeding breeding species include thirteen warblers and the Yellow-breasted Chat, two tanagers, three vireos and two Catharus thrushes. Four species are Audubon Watchlist species and twenty-three species are ranked by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) as birds of conservation concern. An additional 1 39 species use Baldpate Mountain as a migratory stopover in spring and fall or are winter or permanent residents.
Because Baldpate Mountain is long and narrow, it is highly sensitive to disruption from activity on the power line cut that bisects the forest lengthwise. Of special concern is noise from blasting and construction that would penetrate deeply into the forest, interfering with vocal communication between birds at a critical time during the breeding season.
Extending the width of the power line cut would destroy or degrade adjacent breeding habitat along the length of the mountain. Because Baldpate breeding territories are saturated, these birds cannot move further back into the interior forest if disturbed. There is no place for the displaced birds to go. Blue- winged and Chestnut-sided Warblers, species of conservation concern that breed at the forest-power line ecotone, would be especially affected.
The blasting necessary to penetrate the extremely hard diabase substrate has the potential to affect the springs that feed the creeks that originate on Baldpate, disrupting their flow and the animals that depend on them, including the breeding Louisiana Waterthrush, a species of conservation concern.
Given the ecological sensitivity cf Baldpate Mountain, the power line cut should have never been placed there. A through biological inventory and environmental impact statement would dearly show why. The damage to Baldpate should not be compounded by allowing PennEast access for their pipeline.
To get an idea of what’s being described, here’s a google Earth terrain view of the pipeline route going through Baldpate Mountain:
As you can see the pipeline route is cutting right through the preserve along the power line easement – an easement that will also probably have to be widened. You can also see the how the route doesn’t bother to avoid steep slopes but instead just barrels along in a straight line up and down the mountain.
Due to the composition of the bedrock that makes up the Sourland mountains, including Baldpate, PennEast building crews would likely have to blast along much of the route, particularly on the slopes. This will compound the damage significantly both in terms of immediate ecological damage and long term issues such a worsening runoff from rain storms.
A mile or two away from Baldpate we also have the Swan Creek Reservoir, which serves as a primary source of drinking water for Lambertville, NJ. As with Baldpate, there are very steep slopes in this area that would likely require blasting. Take a look at where the pipeline route is in relation to the reservoir:
In fact, Google Earth shows that the pipeline study corridor is less than 200 feet from the reservoir:
Can you imagine blasting into bedrock and then custom welding a 3′ wide high pressure gas pipeline a couple of hundred feet from a drinking water reservoir?