Photographing the pipeline route, Part 4: West Amwell, NJ

Part four of the pipeline route series is back in West Amwell, NJ.  Pictures here are from Woodens Lane, Old Route 518 West, and route 518.  This section highlights where the pipeline route comes within a couple of hundred feet of Lambertville’s primary water supply, the Swan Creek Reservoir.

Wooden’s Lane, Joint Protected Land
This shot shows land that was protected just last year as a joint effort between West Amwell Township and the D&R Greenway Land Trust. This is 43 acres of farmland and woods that was supposed to be protected in perpetuity. The pipeline route is coming very close to this parcel, you can see the electrical towers where the pipeline will be in the upper right. It took eight years to get this land protected, and a slight variation of the pipeline route could end up going through it. You can read more about the conservation effort here. There are several other protected parcels in this area as well.

You can see the long list of prohibited activities on the West Amwell sign, including prohibitions on removing soil and vegetation from anywhere on the land. I guess PennEast will just cross through those portions of the sign if they come through.

Woodens Lane, zoom in on towers
A zoomed in shot showing the towers more clearly.

Woodens Lane, more of Goat Hill
A slightly different angle showing more of the ridge on Goat Hill. Our house is up there on the ridge.

Route 518, United Water site
Just off of route 518 going into Lambertville, NJ is the Swan Creek Reservoir, owned and operated by the United Water company. This is the primary water supply for Lambertville. The pipeline route goes within a couple of hundred feet of the reservoir in very hilly and steep terrain.

Route 518, United Water site reservoir
A picture of the reservoir. Sorry it’s a bit hard to see with all the trees. The horizontal line demarks the edge of the reservoir and has spillway controls for when they need to dump water into Swan Creek below it.

Route 518, looking south along pipeline route
This shot is looking southwards along the power line easement. As you can see the towers are really big, and the cut is going to have to be widened significantly for the pipeline to run next to it. Notice all of the boulders around here, In this area the diabase bedrock is right at the surface and there is no soil at all.

518 also a major thorough fare in the area, one of the main arteries leading into Lambertville city. Traffic is going to be a nightmare when they close this for construction.

Route 518, looking north along pipeline route
The reverse view of the above, this is looking northward along the route. You can clearly see the power company’s service road on the left of the towers. To the right is the Swan Creek Reservoir (just out of the shot). If they go left for the pipeline they’ll have to move the service road or cut a full 100′ more to accommodate construction. Otherwise they’d have to move the service road to the right, which might also require more cuts to that side. But that side also has the reservoir, so I see no good choices here.

Oh and of course this route is quite steep. Runoff is going to be terrible the more they widen.

Route 518, closeup of previous shot
The same as the previous shot but zoomed in.


A wider angle looking south. You can see the small stream to the right that runs along and crosses the route here.

Route 518, looking north, different angle
Another shot to the north. I took this shot to show how the power line towers are perfectly centered in the easement. This is true of the whole area where there high voltage towers. This means PennEast will make this big ugly scar in the country side even wider, making it uglier, run off worse, invasive species more of a problem, and further impacting wild life.

Route 518, looking southward zoomed
A zoomed-in shot to the south with the towers centered. The regular power lines you see running across the view are Old Route 518 West.

Old Route 518 West, looking northward
Old route 518 runs a couple hundred feet to the south of Route 518 and parallels it. You can see a car on route 518 in this shot.

Old Route 518 West looking southward
The southern view from Old Route 518. This is right next to the electrical service road on the right of the shot. You can see more boulders here. Again, if they’re going to preserve the service road they’ll have to run the pipeline on the left and severely widen the cut. Diabase is very shallow or at the surface here so intensive techniques including blasting will have to be used. Slopes here are modest but still a concern.

Old Route 518 West, looking southward
Slightly different angle of previous shot.

Old Route 518 West, looking southward. No trespassing!
Lots of different no trespassing signs here 🙂

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!

Comments from a member of the West Amwell Pipeline committee

Jennifer Andreoli commented to the FERC as part of West Amwell’s Pipeline Committee, link here:

West Amwell Pipeline Committee Member Coments – FERC Generated PDF

West Amwell Pipeline Committee Member Coments – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Please read her comments in full, but this passage in particular really struck me:

If you put aside the extremes, the environmentalists and the pipeline companies, you are left with the citizens impacted by the pipeline. As one of these average citizens I can tell you there is an awful lot of conflicting evidence from both sides. Because of this I felt it necessary to talk to other average citizens who have been impacted by similar applications in other towns. Speaking directly to these people is where I found truth on the aftermath of these applications. There are two key points that struck me more than even the evidence on the environmental impact and potential economic boon for the region.

The farmer. I spoke with a woman from PA and found she has had similar problems as our own Mr. Fulper in West Amwell Township with pipelines. The crop yield is lower on and surrounding the lines, the destruction from the installation is not repairable; the disregard by pipeline companies of the land is disheartening. Both of these individuals have had issues with the pipeline companies coming on their property, destroying property, crops and soils, doing what the company claims are routine maintenance without prior notification. In both cases, the pipeline companies after much arguing and threats to contact attorneys would only offer a minimal monetary compensation for the loss. Even going as far as to tell both farmers, go ahead and take us to court, it will cost you more in legal fees. That was a disturbing discovery especially in light of the fact these are private companies being given permission by our federal government to take land from individuals. When questioned, our government repeats these private companies are required to follow certain rules, regulations and standards of practice which it appears no one holds them accountable to.

The New Jersey Natural Heritage Program means nothing to PennEast

Cathy Urbanksi, the chair of the West Amwell Township Environmental Commission, has made another submission to the FERC site.

The New Jersey Natural Heritage Program
“As New Jersey continues to experience industrial and economic growth, it is imperative that we take steps to ensure that remaining areas of natural significance be preserved for their resource potential, their educational and research use, and their aesthetic and cultural values for present and future generations. As we become more aware of our dependence on our natural environment for our well-being and ultimate survival, we must answer one question: how can we best preserve our irreplaceable natural heritage.

The New Jersey Natural Heritage Program identifies the state’s most significant natural areas through a comprehensive inventory of rare plant and animal species and representative ecological communities. From the inventory, the Natural Heritage Database compiles information on the distribution, biology, status, and preservation needs of these species and communities”. (NJDEP)

The Natural Heritage Priority Sites Coverage was created to identify critically important areas to conserve New Jersey’s biological diversity, with particular emphasis on rare plant species and ecological communities.

“Using the Natural Heritage Database, the Office of Natural Lands Management (ONLM) has identified 343 Natural Heritage Priority Sites, representing some of the best remaining habitat for rare species and rare ecological communities in the state. These areas should be considered to be top priorities for the preservation of biological diversity in New Jersey. If these sites become degraded or destroyed, we may lose some of the unique components of our natural heritage.” (NJDEP).

Goat Hill has been designated as a Natural Heritage Priority Site. Goat Hill is the westernmost boundary of the Sourland Mountain. It is a steep, woody diabase hillside and the site contains three state endangered plant species (NJDEP). Any disturbance to the natural environment of this area should be absolutely prohibited. See map, below.

The PennEast preferred alternate route comes dangerously close and actually crosses this Natural Heritage Priority site. Any altercation to this site, whether from pipeline construction, the noxious gasses emanating continuously from the pipeline, possible explosions, or herbicide use, would pose a serious problem to the endangered plants. This area is a priority site for a very good reason.

We request that FERC choose the pipeline option of “no build” in order to preserve our critical ecological and rare communities and our fragile natural environment.

George Fisher, Mayor, West Amwell Township
Cathy Urbanski, Environmental Commission Chair, West Amwell Township

The map described is this one below:

The fat black line is (appropriately) the pipeline route.

This is the important part from their submission:

Goat Hill has been designated as a Natural Heritage Priority Site. Goat Hill is the westernmost boundary of the Sourland Mountain. It is a steep, woody diabase hillside and the site contains three state endangered plant species (NJDEP). Any disturbance to the natural environment of this area should be absolutely prohibited.

 

West Amwell has an extensive history of preserving land, both for ecological reasons and so we can continue to be a rural township in perpetuity. People like Cathy have been ceaseless in their efforts at preservation. And it isn’t just talk – we spend time and money ensuring the safety of our land.

Take a look at the West Amwell Natural Resource Inventory. The last entry in the document talks about Goat Hill:

The database has identified Natural Heritage Priority Sites that represent some of the best remaining habitat for rare species and exemplary natural communities in the state. These areas should be considered to be top priorities for the preservation of biological diversity in New Jersey. If these sites become degraded or destroyed, we may lose some of the unique components of our natural heritage.

Goat Hill has been designated as a Natural Heritage Priority Site (Figure 19). Goat Hill is the westernmost boundary of the Sourlands. It is a steep, woody diabase hillside and the site contains three state endangered plant species. This site was preserved in its entirety by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Green Acres in 2008. It is now known as Goat Hill Overlook.

My town has been at this for quite some time. Here’s a NJDEP release from 2003 talking about West Amwell’s preservation efforts at that time. It mentions:

Standing with local, state government and community leaders at Fiddler’s Creek Farm, Campbell announced the acquisition of the 197-acre turkey farm located in West Amwell. The preservation of Fiddler’s Creek Farm creates a continuous expanse of preserved land connecting the Delaware River Greenway and the Sourland Mountain Greenway. Fiddler’s Creek Farm consists of forested stream corridor, hayfields and pasture and commands a 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside, the Delaware River and Bowman’s Tower in Pennsylvania. A branch of Moores Creek, which supports 18 species of fish, flows through the property, connecting it to other preserved properties including the Howell Living History Farm and Baldpate Mountain. Delaware & Raritan Greenway, the Green Acres Program Hunterdon County and West Amwell Township were partners in the preservation of Fiddler’s Creek Farm.

Of course it goes without saying that the PennEast pipeline will be going through both Moore’s Creek and Fiddler’s creek.

West Amwell is also hardly alone in these efforts. Every town in Hunterdon has significant conservation programs in place and you see Green Acres, Open Spaces, Preserved Farmland, and D&R Land Trust signs all over the place. We think preserving the land is important. Too bad PennEast doesn’t.

The West Amwell submission is below:

West Amwell NJ – FERC Generated PDF

West Amwell NJ – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

The Rolling Hills Farm

Like so many people, Jane and Jason of the Rolling Hills Farm in Lambertville NJ had a dream. They moved from NYC to Hunterdon County in search of a rural life. Now eminent domain is being threatened to run a 3 foot wide high pressure pipeline through their organic farm.

2 years ago, my husband and I left Manhattan to start an organic farm in Hunterdon county. We have worked hard, are conscious stewards of the land, and grow clean food for our community in the midst of a country-wide epidemic of health problems due to lack of healthy product in America. Our farm happens to have the electrical easement on it that PennEast proposes to use. It goes straight through the farm, 10 feet from our historic home; an old area orphanage built in 1840, and directly through a registered historic Lenape settlement in the woods below our fields.

As you can imagine, the land would be decimated by the 100ft wide cuts- and we would no longer be able to farm organically. I could go on, but it boils down to the fact that we as family fundamentally oppose the practice of fracking and this pipeline proposal. Instead, perhaps FERC could support research and development into sustainable energy- to put us back on the map with countries like Germany, who have initiatives that bring them into the future, and not push us farther back by poisoning the land and putting citizen’s health on the line in order to take part in the Fracking bubble?

It is the fact that a giant conglomerate company could possibly undermine the efforts of individual citizens to make our country a better and healthier place, that disappoints me so greatly.
This farm is our American dream. Please give me faith that the government will support us, and it’s citizens, and refuse to let this tragic pipeline befall our families, communities, and ecology when it comes time for you to review the Penn East proposal.

I am counting on you.

You can see their web site here:

Rolling Hills Farm web site

Their FERC Submission is below:

Jane and Jason – FERC Generated PDF

Jane and Jason – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site