Photographing the pipeline route, Part 3: More Hopewell, NJ and Baldpate Mountain

Part 3 of the pipeline route pictures stays in Hopewell NJ.  This includes some views of the route going up Baldpate Mountain and through a number of very sensitive areas.

Valley Road next to Howell Living History Farm
This shot is looking down Valley Road towards Pleasant Valley Road. On the right is the Howell Living History Farm. This is a Mercer County owned farm that’s dedicated to teaching about farming techniques used centuries ago. They do real farming and have a great deal of live stock on site as well.

In the distance you see the electrical towers marching up Baldpate Mountain, where the pipeline is proposed to go as well. Baldpate is an ecologically unique feature in New Jersey due to its location and geography.

Valley Road Closeup of Baldpate site
Here I zoomed in on the towers going up Baldpate. This is a somewhat rugged area and the diabase bedrock is within just a couple of feet of the surface. In some areas it’s at the surface. They’d need to blast to get the pipeline down to the required 8′. As you can see in this shot the slopes are not just in the line of the power lines but in some cases perpendicular to the lines as well. To fit the pipeline in they’re going to have to widen the power line easement cut significantly (because you can’t put the pipeline right under the towers).

Valley Road near Pleasant Valley Road
This is near the intersections of Valley Road and Pleasant Valley Road. On the left is still Howell Living History Farm. As you can see the pipeline will be running just a few hundred yards from the farm. You can’t see it here but it also is crossing Moore’s Creek and crossing right at the intersection of the two roads.

We’re swimming in an ocean of “bad” if the pipeline goes through here. Construction will be bad for the farm. Running through or under Moore’s creek is a very, very bad idea. It’s a category 1 stream that ends in the Delaware river, and carries a lot of water when it rains or we have snow melt. They’re going to be blasting around here, distributing material all over. Then going up the side of Baldpate they’ll be disturbing the ecology and worsening run off.

Baldpate is a preserved state park and they’re running right over it.

Pleasant valley road
A view from Pleasant Valley road of the towers and route. Sorry for the poor quality, that was through my truck’s windows.

Pleasant valley Road, the Hunter Farm
This is one of a few Hunter farms in the area ūüôā This one as you can see is a 54 acre preserved farm with historic barns on the property. You can’t see it here but the pipeline will be running right through this historic farm.

Pleasant Valley Road, Towers going up Baldpate
A view of the towers marching along Baldpate.

Pleasant Valley Road – Closeup
A closeup of the previous shot

Pleasant Valley Road – Closeup
Another closeup of the previous shot

Pleasant Valley Road and Valley Road
This is the intersection of Pleasant Valley Road and Valley Road. You can see the power lines going right over head. You can see them crossing Moore’s Creek here and then running right through the intersection. It’s right next to a bridge that already has sustained some damage from all the ice we’ve had the past couple of winters.

Valley Road – Closeup of Moore’s Creek
This is a closeup of the Creek from the Valley Road bridge. As you can see it’s brown and swollen from the rain and snow melt run off.

Pleasant Valley Road View up slope
A view of the towers and pipeline route at the intersection.

Pleasant Valley Road closeup of tower
A closeup of one of the towers to give you a notion of how big they are. The easement is only 100′ wide and PennEast needs to stay about 25 feet away from the base. I’d ball park these towers as around 30 feet wide at the bottom. That means for PennEast to create it’s construction zone 100′ wide, it’ll have to clear cut an extra 40 feet or so on one side. So they’ll be widening the size of the cut by almost 50% more than we have today.

Pleasant Valley Road and Valley Road closeup
Closeup of the sign and looking to the west.

Valley Road – Sheep Farm
This is a sheep farm that’s on Valley Road. The pipeline will be running across the middle of the entire farm. If you look closely you can see the sheep on the bottom right. ¬†There are other farms along here that you can’t see which you can only get to via an access road. The pipeline is going to cut right across that access road, cutting off people from their farms.

Photographing the pipeline route, Part 2: More Hopewell, NJ

This is part 2 of my series of posts showing pictures of the pipeline route and demonstrating exactly who the pipeline will be impacting and what sort of terrain they’re going to be building through. ¬†These are all in Hopewell NJ in Mercer County. ¬†Most people think of Trenton when they think of Mercer County, but in fact the North western part is quite beautiful farming country.

Goat Hill Road looking Southwest

A view from Goat Hill Road. You can see the powerlines going through the middle of the shot, the pipeline will be right next to those on the ground.

Goat Hill Road Steep Slope
A few up one of them many steep slopes this will be going over.

Goat Hill Road zoom in of same shot
Same shot, just zoomed in a bit.

Goat Hill Road field
This is the field where the route takes a left turn towards Baldpate mountain.

Goat Hill Closeup
Closeup of previous shot

Valley Road Steep Slope
Where the pipeline route crosses Valley Road you can see it has to immediately go up a fairly steep slope.

Valley Road Closeup
Closeup of previous shot.

Valley Road looking towards Baldpate
This shows where the pipeline starts going towards Baldpate Mountain

Valley Road Closeup towards Baldpate
A closeup of the previous shot. As you can see we are crossing yet another farm, and then up we go onto the steep slopes of Baldpate Mountain.

Valley Road, Pleasant Valley Farm
This shows where the pipeline will be cutting across the length of Pleasant valley Farm, and incidentally cutting across their driveway.

Photographing the pipeline route, Part I

On Thursday I grabbed my trusty Sony Alpha DSLR, my phone, a notebook and pen, hopped into my pickup truck and set off on a quest to photograph as much of the pipeline route as I could.

I only made it to Frenchtown, but along the way I got some great shots of where the pipeline will be going through. Hopefully I’ll get through more this weekend.

I’ll be submitting the whole thing to the FERC in batches as I document it so they can see some of the sensitive areas the pipeline’s going through.

All pictures are also links to larger copies.

This first batch covers my immediate home area in West Amwell NJ and next door¬†in Hopewell, NJ. I’ll continue to do these roughly 10 pictures at a time.

You can see the entire set in my flickr album here.

I wrote down the picture number of each shot along with its location in my notebook so I had a record of which shot was which. In total there are 157 just from this one trip so I’m glad I did!

Horse farm on Hewitt Road

This is the horse farm across the street from my property. From what I hear the owner has been negotiating with PennEast and will be granting them an easement. The pipeline will be going around his house and barn but will tear up a lot of his fields where the horses currently graze. I’m not sure what he’s going to do with them during construction. The pipeline route will be next to the high voltage electrical towers.

Hewitt Road Crossing Driveway
On this shot you can see where the pipeline route (along the high voltage power lines) is crossing across my neighbor’s driveway. There’s a lot of this around here unfortunately, not sure what my neighbors are supposed to dow with their houses during construction.

New house on Hewitt Road
This is a new house my neighbors built about a year ago. It doesn’t show up on google maps yet so PennEast may not be aware of them. They have an adorable hound dog named Brody and just had a little baby shortly after they moved in. The pipeline is is slated to cut across their property.

Hewitt Road looking south
Here I’m looking down the pipeline route along the wires, it shows where the route will cut my neighbor’s driveway and then head down the side of goat hill, which is somewhat steep.

Hunting area on Goat Hill Road
This area is owned (or maybe leased, not sure) by a hunting group. The pipeline route goes right through their staging area where they park their trucks before heading out to hunt. I can’t imagine they’re too happy with the pipeline ripping up the area and making it unusable for weeks.

Goat Hill Road looking South
Goat Hill Road has a 90 degree kink in it, this is a shot from that kink looking south along the road and also a very large horse farm. The pipeline route (the electrical towers) will be cutting across their entire farm.

Goat Hill Wider shot of Hunter area
A wider shot of the hunter’s area. That’s my truck in the foreground. The pipeline actually will cross Goat Hill twice (!). Traffic in our area is going to be a mess, the pipeline is cutting across all of our major roads. After Sandy it was a nightmare to get anywhere due to trees down. I wonder if this pipeline is going to be as bad or even worse for getting around.

Goat Hill Closeup looking south
A zoomed in view of southern view. About halfway down this route the pipeline route will take a sharp left towards Baldpate Mountain.

Goat Hill, another zoomed shot
If you look through the tree on the left, in the distance you’ll see snow lines on the traprock quarry. The pipeline is going to be fairly close to that quarry, where they regularly do blasting.

Goat Hill Road, looking west
This is down the road a bit, on Goat Hill looking to the west towards the Delaware river. The Delaware’s only about 1.8 miles from here, all down hill. So if they’re not careful tailings from the blasting and digging during construction will flow right down into the river.

As with just about every farm and large tract of land in this area, there are “Posted” signs everywhere. Given the proclivity for hunting and property rights around here I’d suggest PennEast not try to trespass anywhere!

Clear cutting old growth forest not a consideration of PennEast, period

Julian in Pennington, NJ is another resident along the pipeline route who’s had unsatisfactory discussions with PennEast representatives. He tells the FERC:

As a landowner in Hopewell Township (NJ), Block 92, Lot 8, on Scotch Road, I object to the current proposed pipeline route along the existing power easement. That route would require clear cutting a large swath of old growth forest ‚Äď hundreds of years old ‚Äď on my and adjacent parcels. This is a forest my family, neighbors, community and I explored and enjoyed for many years, in my case, the past 50 years since moving there in 1965.

I mentioned this objection to several pipeline representatives, and was told by all that clear cutting old growth forest is not a consideration for them in routing or re-routing their pipeline, period. I hope that your agency would think otherwise ‚Äď that forest will take hundreds of years to regenerate and provides much needed habitat for a wide range of plant and animal life.

In addition, I object generally to the need for this pipeline. The fact that interested parties will purchase natural gas to resell abroad does not, in my view, establish the kind of need warranting a certificate of convenience and necessity. The current slow-down in drilling Marcellus Shale in PA arises not from a lack of pipeline infrastructure, but from low prices resulting from arguably an over-supply, a condition which the
proposed pipeline would only exacerbate.

Thank you for your consideration.

I supposed PennEast caring about clear cutting old growth forest shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone anymore.

Take note of the other section of Julian’s submission. As he indicated exploitation of Marcellus Shale is slowing down significantly because prices of oil and gas are so low. We have a glut of energy and this pipeline makes no sense.

Compare this pipeline to the Leidy Southeast expansion. Leidy is carrying only half as much natural gas, but it’s being spread from NY down the coast to the Carolinas. With this already approved, why do we need a PennEast pipeline carrying twice as much natural gas – but supposedly only targeted to central NJ and eastern PA? This makes no sense – the PennEast pipeline will effectively double the amount of natural gas being pumped into the region. There’s no way we could use all this gas here. In fact it’s pretty obvious that the gas will not benefit our region at all but will be shipped elsewhere. Possibly ashore – the news is awash with stories of U.S. becoming an exporter of natural gas for the first time and companies aggressively pursuing permits from the government to ship natural gas abroad.

Julian’s submission is available below:

Julian’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Julian’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Blasting concerns in Baldpate and Belle Mountain areas

It may not be widely known that for large portions of the PennEast route mere “digging” isn’t going to cut it. The route is going through very mountainous terrain with rock formations exposed right at the surface. Drive around West Amwell, Lambertville, and Hopewell township and you’ll see what I mean. Exposed rock everywhere! Driving along route 29, or route 518, or even on 202 near the Delaware river bridge and you’ll see the stone formations. They’re actually quite beautiful in the winter as small water falls freeze in place on the walls. If you’re not from the area think of the NJ palisades, those are made of the same stuff.

What you’re seeing is diabase, which is what makes up the bulk of the Sourland mountains. Goat Hill, Belle Mountain, and Baldpate are all made of diabase.

As I said, digging isn’t going to cut it for installing a pipeline. So they’re going to have to blast out the rock.

William and Dorothy of Hopewell, NJ tell the FERC why it’s a very, very bad idea to do this.

We are writing to voice our concerns regarding the proposed PennEast pipeline. The PennEast pipeline is one of more than ten pipelines being proposed to supply gas to New Jersey, a state already well supplied with natural gas. The two routes proposed by PennEast are particularly detrimental for Hopewell Township and neighboring townships to its north. The original route sought to minimize disturbance of private landowners by traversing public lands where possible. This route disregarded the fact that many of these environmentally sensitive lands had been specifically purchased to protect forests and the wildlife therein. The second route would traverse sensitive lands north of Hopewell Township but within the township. It would co-locate with an existing JCP&L high tension right of way to minimize environmental disturbance. However, that route would necessitate passing near Belle Mountain and then crossing Baldpate Mountain. Both formations are comprised of diabase extending more than 1000 feet below the surface. This particularly hard rock will require significant blasting to excavate an 8-10 foot deep trench that would be required to safely bury a 36 inch pipe.

Our concern is the potential consequences of the blasting. Vibrations are transmitted very efficiently through this diabase over unexpectedly long distances. As an example, at present we feel the vibrations from the blasting at the Trap Rock mine which is more than two miles away on Route 29.

Based on this ongoing experience, we anticipate even stronger vibrations arising from construction of a pipeline trench within 0.25-0.5 miles of the houses along Pleasant Valley Road even if well designed explosive charges are employed. Depending on the structural integrity of the diabase, the vibrations of the blast can be very efficiently transmitted to neighboring houses causing structural damage. Such damage could be manifested by cracking of foundations, tiled surfaces, plaster walls or swimming pools.

Even more troubling is the potential for the blasting vibrations to adversely impact the wells of the homes along Pleasant Valley Road and Valley Road. In this area all homes and farms depend on well water. Unlike wells which draw from alluvial aquifers, these wells are low yielding because they depend on ground water recharge which is delivered through existing sporadic fractures in the diabase. Depending on how the fractures respond to the blast vibrations, the water output of these wells could be increased, decreased or stopped entirely. Failure of a well would be devastating for a homeowner.

Drilling a replacement would be expensive since these wells typically are several hundred feet deep. In addition the new bore may not be successful since the source is not an aquifer but rather a chance pocket of water.

The potential economic benefits for construction of a new single-sited pipeline do not compensate for the impact on the New Jersey communities through which it passes. Here we alert FERC to the issue of blasting vibrations and well viability that is directly related to the underlying geology of the area through which the pipeline passes. After consideration of these environmental and geological concerns, we hope that you will reject the PennEast pipe line proposal.

Their submission is below:

William and Dorthy’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

William and Dorthy’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Trashing the New Jersey Green Acre Program for Profit

Alex and Laura of Pennington go into details of of how their farm was preserved through the New Jersey Green Acres program several years ago:

Let me say categorically and emphatically that we are strongly against this idea. We worked extremely hard over many years with a consortium of nonprofit land preservation organizations to place a conservation easement over our property, which formed a cornerstone of preserved lands that include significant and vital stream corridor and woodland habitats for wildlife. It seems outrageous that the government, acting through New Jersey’s Green-Acre Program, would work so hard and expend so much of the public’s treasure and effort to preserve land, only to allow you to smash a substantial right-of-way, which would involve cutting down large amounts of preserved forests and carving through wetlands, through pristine lands that provide important ecological resources. It perhaps goes without saying that the stream corridors and wetlands and surrounding woodlands provide vital habitat for wildlife, important buffer zones for aquifer recharge and storm water sequestration, and passive recreation opportunities for residents. Our property, which we worked so hard to preserve, provides roughly 4000 feet of such stream corridor preservation, which you propose to undo completely.

Let me review a few of the facts we discussed. We granted a conservation easement over our property in December 2003 to a group of nonprofit land trust oriented organizations, including the Delaware and Raritan Greenway Land Trust, the Borough of Pennington, a local municipality, and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. Each of these organizations used an allocation of available funds from the New Jersey Green-Acres program. The transaction was a so-called bargain sale, in which the nonprofit organizations and municipality contributed a portion of the funds for the bargain sale, and we donated a substantial portion of the value. We have lived quietly on the property since this time and worked to continue to preserve and maintain the conservation values of the ecologically sensitive lands and open spaces. The easement in question involves a combination of conservation easement areas(>95%), with and without public access, and a small portion dedicated to our private residential use, that comprises less than 5% of the property.

Left unchecked, this project would powerfully dissuade people granting conservation easements over the lands in the future. In light of the diminished state financial resources that are available for land preservation now and in future, it will dramatically undermine the willingness of individual private landowners to grant conservation  easements over their lands, and set back the cause of preserving land in our region to a measurable degree. These easements provide a vital tool to prevent real estate development from encroaching on the semi-agrarian nature of our region and our quality of life, and create the conditions under which we avoid flooding, create aquifer recharge, and maintain wildlife population and recreational opportunities.

The public access areas dedicated to the public access-conservation use are used by dozens of people a day for passive recreation such as running, hiking, walking and cross-country skiing. The trails are well used. The trails on the property that pivotally connect to interlocking lands owned by the state of New Jersey Department of  Environmental Protection in the so-called Lake Baldwin Wildlife Management Area, and other lands protected from development and under conservation easement that are owned and managed by the D&R Greenway Land Trust together comprise a mosaic of hundreds of acres of preserved property, trails and natural beauty that provide an important buffer to development and a vital ecological function.

Your project would unavoidably cut through these important trail networksand wetlands, cutting across a swath of woods and agricultural lands, and reducing their conservation value. Protecting preserved lands is a critical stewardship function of the local land trusts we worked with and who continue to have responsibility for this vital role. I served astrustee of the D&R Greenway Land Trust for eight years after we granted the conservation easement, because I felt it was important to work hard in this critical stewardship process of defending the easements once they are granted and finding new properties to preserve. My wife Laura, has recently joined the board of the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association in part driven by a similar concern.

We pledge to you that together with as many willing nonprofit land preservation organizations as will support us, and by organizing individual owners of property affected by your plan, we will work hard to defeat your project at every stage. As a society we cannot abide by the wanton destruction of preserved lands.

They bring up a very good point I hadn’t considered before: by breaking conservation easements, PennEast will be providing a powerful disincentive for people to protect lands in the future.

Their entire submission is available below:

Alex and Laura’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Alex and Laura’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site