Lake Watch challenges Dominion's decision to allow buffer clearing
Lake Murray is a public waterway built for the public good. Lake Murray Watch is a
conservation group that was formed over 20 years ago to promote the protection and enhancement of the project’s scenic, recreational and environmental resources. It is the responsibility and duty of Lake Watch, other NGO’s, and the Agencies to report possible non-compliance issues by the licensee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC). FERC ultimately has the responsibility of enforcing license articles that protect public values.
Recently Lake Watch received a report regarding what appeared to be excessive clearing in the seventy five foot buffer on two lots in the vicinity of Vinge Rd. in Newberry County. Lake Watch visited the site and determined that clearing of vegetation four inches in diameter and smaller occurred using heavy equipment.
Lake Watch contends that this violates the requirements set forth in the Buffer Zone and Riparian Management Plan(Plan) approved by the FERC in 2007, which represents the most recent plan and supersedes all previous plans including the plan approved by FERC as part of the 2004 Shoreline Management Plan update which required SCE&G to establish and protect a 50’ buffer around ESAs and a 25’ non-disturbance zone around the remaining buffer locations.
Dominion approved the clearing arguing that the buffer at this location was created before the more restrictive buffer management criteria was put in place, therefore does not come under the the most recent requirements, and qualifies for a limited brushing permit which allows clearing of vegetation less than 4 inches in diameter.
Lake Watch disagrees with that analysis. As stated above, we believe that the Buffer Zone at this location comes under the more recent, “ 2007 Buffer Zone and Riparian Management Plan” which supersedes all previous plans.
The FERC order approving the 2007 Plan required the licensee to begin implementing Plan the date it was approved (Aug. 7, 2007). The Plan applies to all buffers established since 1984. The Plan does not apply to buffers established before 1984. The Plan requires that the first 50’ ft. of the buffer remain mostly undisturbed except for some limited clearing for a path to the dock. The Plan requires the licensee to restore all buffers established after 1984 to the minimum criteria recommended by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), regardless of the cause. According to county records, fringe lands at this location were sold by SCE&G in October of 2006 which indicates the buffer was established after 1984 and thus comes under the 2007 Plan’s criteria.
Dominion’s recent decision to allow clearing in this area gives the appearance the company is broadly interpreting the current shoreline plan in favor of appeasing developers and adjacent property owners at the expense of destroying public resources.