Environment and Outdoors

The Grandin Theatre has “gone green” – buying all of its electricity from renewable energy sources. Its actually a program offered by Appalachian Power, which then delivers that “green energy” over standard transmission lines. There’s a $71 monthly fee for that – and for the next two years Clean Valley Council will pick up the tab says executive director Mary Ann Brenchick. She hopes other local businesses will follow the Grandin Theatre’s lead – even if it costs them a little more every month. Next Wednesday Clean Valley Council kicks off a monthly series called “Green Drinks” at the Grandin with a 6pm discussion on the renewable energy transition – and a craft beer tasting.

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State Police photo

NEWS RELEASE: MONTGOMERY CO, Va. – A Massachusetts man has been arrested on two charges related to his refusal to remove himself from the pipeline right-of-way in Montgomery County. Thursday afternoon (July 18, 2019) the Virginia State Police charged Evin Tyler Ugur, 22, of Worcester, MA with one misdemeanor count of Code of Virginia 18.2-404: (Obstructing the Right of Passage of Another), and one count of Code of Virginia 18.2-460:  (Obstruction of Justice).

The Virginia State Police responded to Cove Hollow Road on Thursday, (July 18) at 12:50 p.m., for a report of a several protesters trespassing on the Mountain Valley Pipeline easement. The man, later identified as Ugur, had affixed himself to a device buried in the ground using a common protest device called a “sleeping dragon.”  State police made repeated attempts requesting Ugur to voluntarily release himself from the device and offered medical service. He refused all requests.

Virginia State Police specially-trained personnel able to free Ugur from the device just after 5:00 p.m.; These Troopers are trained in the safe removal of “sleeping dragon” devices. Ugur was transported out of the remote location by the Virginia State Police Tactical Team to the staging area, where Ugur was evaluated by Montgomery County Emergency Medical Services.

Ugur was held on a $2500 secured bond by the Montgomery County Magistrate and has been prohibited from all pipeline property.

Gov Northam- G Marrano photo

Governor Northam traveled to Carvins Cove this afternoon where he announced creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation. It will lead state efforts to develop and promote Virginia’s outdoor recreation industry – and to recruit new outdoor businesses.  Northam says the outdoor recreation industry contributes nearly 22 billion dollars a year to Virginia’s economy, employing close to 200,000 people in the state. And Northam says there is a second purpose.

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NEWS RELEASE: ROANOKE, Va., July 18, 2019 – At the end of June 2019, Appalachian Power had already removed debris from Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes almost equal to the total amount taken out of the water in all of 2018.  “Over the past few years, these two lakes have seen a dramatic increase of waterborne debris—mostly natural material—flowing in from tributaries during high water events,” said David Agee who coordinates debris removal for the company. “Appalachian Power has responded quickly and dramatically to remove the debris from the water. “Our employees and contractors continue to focus on this task and are working long hours to remove the sometimes dangerous floating debris from main channels and areas accessible to our work barges,” Agee added. Below is the amount of debris removed by Appalachian in the first six months of 2019 compared to totals in the previous two years:

Location Through June 2019 All 2018 All 2017
Smith Mtn Lake 1,410 tons 1,090 tons 1,310 tons
Leesville Lake 1,730 tons 2,323 tons 1,676 tons
Total 3,140 tons 3,413 tons 2,986 tons


Most of the debris appears to be from upstream areas and is natural material—such as branches and cut tree trunks. Inflow from the Roanoke River, which has a watershed that covers more urban and populated areas than other project tributaries, includes slightly more human-made materials.

Appalachian Power owns and operates movable barge platforms to remove the debris using its employees on both Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes. The company also hires external contractors to supplement its barges.

Residents and boaters are asked to report debris via the company’s project website at www.SmithMountainProject.com . If boaters spot a dangerous situation they can, if safely possible, tow the items out of the navigation channel.

Boaters are urged to be on the lookout for floating debris on or just below the water surface following heavy rain or high-water events. They should adjust their speed accordingly and always wear personal flotation gear.

Smith Mountain Project is a 636-megawatt pumped storage hydroelectric facility on the Roanoke River that utilizes an upper reservoir (Smith Mountain Lake) and a lower reservoir (Leesville Lake).  Combined, the project includes about 600 miles of shoreline. Water stored in Smith Mountain Lake passes through turbine-generators in the dam powerhouse to produce electricity and is discharged into Leesville Lake.  From there some water is released through the Leesville Dam or pumped back into Smith Mountain. The 50-year old project was built and is operated by Appalachian Power and is a key tourism and economic driver for southwest Virginia.

A Virginia Tech study finds that earthquakes in heavy oil production areas are getting deeper underground — and it appears directly connected to injection of oilfield wastewater into the ground. The study focused on oilfields in Kansas and Oklahoma which experienced more quakes on average after production there greatly increased in recent years. WFIR’s Evan Jones reports on its key findings:

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