Issues Affecting the Haw

My last blog post was more about myself and my experience with nature growing up, but this blog entry will be more focused on the Haw River and potential threats to it. Although this will not focus on the Haw River State Park directly, these issues could disrupt the Haw River altogether, so I still believe it is important to discuss.

(Note: most of the information found is from hawriver.org, a site from the Haw River Assembly that has been “defending the river since 1982.”)

A recent and apparent threat to the Haw River is the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) Southgate extension that is supposed to go through Rockingham and Alamance Counties. The pipeline begins in West Virginia and is being used to transport fracked gas from the Mountain State to neighboring Virginia; and the extension, if approved, would send the pipeline into central North Carolina.

The pipeline would mostly dwell in the Haw River watershed, passing through Alamance and Rockingham Counties. This pipeline, if built, will run adjacent to the Haw River and cut into essential streams and tributaries of the river. In addition, the grand pipeline could be up to two feet in diameter. Not only is the river being affected, but the natural land around it would also be harmed. There is a picture on the Haw River website of an old oak tree that is threatened by the MVP extension. Additionally, up to 100 feet of other people’s property surrounding the pipeline path must be used during construction; up to 50 feet of people’s property would be taken permanently. Businesses and companies associated with the MVP wish to begin construction in 2020.

So why is this pipeline such a big issue?

Well, first of all, fracking is a big controversial issue in and of itself. I will not dive too deep into this particular issue because it is not as relevant to the river as other issues, but I will discuss some basics. Commonly known as fracking, hydraulic fracturing is the process in which gas is extracted from shale rock formations using high-pressure fluids to crack the formations. There are many consequences to fracking, including an increased chance of earthquakes and pollution of the drinking water. These fracking operations require a lot of water, a lot of water that could be useful in other situations some deem more important. Also, it is difficult and expensive to control leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, which contributes to the warming of the earth.

Regarding the river, this pipeline poses a huge threat. During the easement process, trees and other wildlife must be cleared from the land, exposing the soil to the possibility of erosion and sedimentation in the streams. This sedimentation is harmful not only because it carries chemicals throughout the river, but it also destroys the sensitive habitats located in the streams. To lay the ditch lines, the streams will be greatly disturbed, either dammed up and rerouted or drilled through. Either way, these processes will destroy habitats all along the Haw River, not just in the immediate area of Rockingham and Alamance Counties. Lastly, there are many concerns about leaks of gases and other materials, which could ruin water quality for those that rely on the river as a drinking source.

This is all for today’s entry. Until next time!

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