For the third winter in a row, helicopters are dropping grass seeds and mulch along the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in an effort to curb erosion on the unfinished project.
Heavy traffic of the company’s helicopters has been reported by residents of Franklin County in recent days.
Mountain Valley says the erosion control efforts are needed as construction of the natural gas pipeline continues to be delayed by legal challenges of its permits from environmental groups.
“Due to ongoing project delays, previous temporary stabilization measures must be periodically refreshed to maintain and protect the ROW [right of way],” company spokeswoman Natalie Cox wrote in an email this week.
Helicopters are being used to distribute a liquid mixture of seeds and mulch, a measure that has been approved by state and federal regulators as the best way to preserve construction areas, she said.
Although Mountain Valley says it hopes to complete work on the $6 billion project by the end of this year, legal hurdles remain as opponents say the 303-mile long pipeline will scar the scenic landscape of Southwest Virginia, pollute its waters and endanger protected species of bats and fish.
The company has agreed to stop all work — with the exception of stabilization and erosion control effects — until Feb. 22, the date by which an appellate court is being asked to rule on approvals from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
In 2017, FERC approved the pipeline to run through the Virginia counties of Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania. At the time, the pipeline was slated for completion by late 2018.