Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest fights against proposed pipeline

Bernheim Forest joins fight against LG&E pipeline plan in Bullitt County

BULLITT COUNTY, KY (WAVE) - A proposed LG&E natural gas transmission pipeline would stretch 12 miles through Bullitt County, including a portion of Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.

In October 2018, Bernheim purchased a 500 acre plot of land for conservation.

“It’s one of the corridors Bernheim is trying to put together for wildlife and help connect us up to some other protected areas,” Director of Conservation Andrew Berry said.

Andrew Berry is the Director of Conservation at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.
Andrew Berry is the Director of Conservation at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. (Source: Taylor Durden)

Shortly after, Berry said they learned LG&E wanted to put an easement on a portion of the land for a natural gas transmission pipeline.

“We were concerned," Berry said. “You know, we know there is a number of federally endangered animals and plants in the area. Also some lesser known species that we manage for.”

There are conservation easements and deed restrictions on the land that won’t allow them to approve the easement fo the pipeline, Berry said.

This map shows where the LG&E natural gas pipeline route would be in comparison to Bernheim's land.
This map shows where the LG&E natural gas pipeline route would be in comparison to Bernheim's land.

“These restrictions basically say we can’t grant an easement for a natural gas pipeline. It basically says the forest has to stay in that condition. It says we can’t do anything to damage the natural features," Berry added. “So really our hands are tied in that regard. So we can’t grant an easement. And on top of that Bernheim would not grant an easement based on our 90 year history of conservation and stewardship.”

Dr. Mark Wourms is the executive director at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.
Dr. Mark Wourms is the executive director at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. (Source: Taylor Durden)

Executive Director Dr. Mark Wourms said the proposed pipeline would go through about eight acres of the land.

“We’re not anti development. We don't believe this is a wise move for Bernheim or the community, now or for the future,” Wourms said.

Bernheim recently found a rare species of snails in the 500 acres of forest. The bluff vertigo snail was discovered by Bernheim in the Cave Hollow area in 2013. Last week, Berry found more.

The Bluff Vertigo Snail is a rare species that are less than two millimeters in size.
The Bluff Vertigo Snail is a rare species that are less than two millimeters in size. (Source: Tay)

“Within these little pot marked holes [in this rock] there’s a whole lot. Hundreds if not thousands of these tiny snails. So we collected a few of them,” Berry said.

They sent them off for DNA testing. The snails are less than two millimeters big. On Tuesday, Berry released the snails they took for testing back into the forest. The snails aren’t the only concern Berry and Wourms have about the potential pipeline project.

“There’s the federally endangered Kentucky Glade Cress, a plant found no where else in the world. It would be heavily impacted by some sections of this pipeline. There’s also three endangered bats: the Gray Bat, the Indiana Bat and the Northern Long-Eared Bat, which have federal protections,” Berry said.

“It's important people understand that big forest blocks are rare in Kentucky,” Wourms said. “Kentucky has the least conserved protected land of any of the surrounding states. We love our green state but we don't do anything to protect it. This is another example.”

LG&E says alternative routes for pipeline in Bullitt County already explored

ALTERNATIVE ROUTES

There were other routes LG&E considered through Bullitt County.

According to case documents through the Kentucky Public Service Commission, LG&E surveyed land and did several route studies to determine the best one.

LG&E spokeswoman Natasha Collins said a third-party engineering company performed a route study to analyze and develop potential pipeline routes.

“Those routes were evaluated based on the ability to meet the objectives of enhancing reliability for existing customers; adding capacity to the existing system that will enable us to continue to serve future customers based on anticipated growth information provided by Bullitt County economic development officials; and the ability to construct the necessary infrastructure at the lowest reasonable cost," Collins said in an email. "The route that best met those objectives was selected by LG&E as the final pipeline route.”

LG&E says they are still talking with property owners to purchase the remaining easements they need for the project and will take legal action if it comes to that.

Copyright 2019 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.