August 25, 2020
Subject: Lake Murray..Shoreline Issues..Project P-516
Lake Watch requests the Commission to investigate possible violations of the FERC order dated January 29, 2004.
1-On January 29, 2004, FERC issued an order approving the sale of fourteen separate parcels of project land adjacent to the project reservoir. Resource agencies and NGO’s opposed the sale due to the high natural resource values, and the fact that the lake is highly developed.
2-In order to address agency concerns, FERC required the licensee to establish a 50 ft. natural buffer zone around all ESA’s. The Commission also required the licensee to establish a 25 ft. natural buffer zone above the 360 contour in areas that do not have ESA’s. This buffer would allow an access pathway to boat docks and a pathway for the general public.
3- Lake Watch recently complained to the licensee about excessive clearing at the site where a dock will be located for Lot 2, Key Island Cove development. This lot is part of a parcel known as the Byrum tract, and is one of the 14parcels approved in the Jan. 29, 2004 order. Lake Watch was concerned that excessive clearing may have occurred at the dock site and the dock location may encroach within a 50’ ESA buffer.
4-The licensee indicated that the clearing was necessary to accommodate the size of the dock structure, and the dock site was not impacting any nearby ESAs. Furthermore, the licensee noted that there is no provision in the existing license that requires a 50’ setback from an ESA, but there is one in the pending new license. When asked how far the dock is from the 50’ESA buffer, Dominion responded saying simply that the dock will not impact any ESA’s . Lake Watch also disagrees that the amount of clearing for the dock was not excessive.
5- Lake Watch is concerned that the licensee is ignoring the 2004 Order which clearly states that the 50’ natural buffer around all ESA’s must remain undisturbed. Docks and pathways must be located within the 25’ natural buffer area.
6- In 2019, the licensee violated the 2009 order when it failed to establish and mark and protect the 25’ buffer and the 50’ ESA buffer on most of the those parcels that had been sold. The licensee admitted to excessive clearing in letter to FERC dated Oct 2, 2019. This was after Lake Watch complained to the Commission in a letter dated Sept. 10, 2019. The licensee promptly hired a professional landscaper to begin restoring the parcels.
7- Lake Watch disagrees with Dominion’s opinion that at present there isn’t a requirement that docks be located 50 ft. away from an ESA. The FERC order says what it says- no disturbance within 50 ft of an ESA buffer. Lake Watch interprets “establishing a 50’ buffer around an ESA” to mean that the ESA buffer extends in all directions from the boundary of the ESA , laterally as well. This area must remain “undisturbed”, i.e. no docks.
8-Based on the ESA’s maps, there are ESA’s at or very close to the proposed dock location at Lot 2. Lot 1-B and Lot 5 have numerous ESA’s at or near proposed dock locations. The entire shoreline of Lot 1-B appears to be a continuous ESA. The entire back cove area of Lot 5 appears to be a continuous ESA (marked as shallow cove habitat).
9- Lake Watch requested, from Dominion, information including GPS coordinates that would verify that the dock on Lot 2 is being located outside of the 50’ ESA buffer. Dominion replied,
“We placed the dock for lot 2 outside the identified shoreline ESA’s. A 50’ dock setback from shoreline ESA’s does not currently exist. That is a new license proposal which is still pending with FERC.”
10- Saying that, Lake Watch request the Commission to investigate our concerns that Dominion may be allowing dock structures to be built within the 50’ ESA buffers in Key Island Cove and the other sold lots within the 14 parcels approved in the January 29, order.
Please call me if you have any questions. 803-730-8121
Lake Murray Watch