Pipeline opponents celebrate first anniversary of Montgomery County protest

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MONTGOMERY CO., Va. (WDBJ7) On September 5th, 2018, Montgomery County resident Lauren Bowman and another protester climbed onto wooden platforms suspended about 50 feet off the ground.

They told reporters that protecting the environment, especially the region's water supply, was their goal.

"Educate yourself about what's going on, because you might be in a position right now where you can ignore these issues," Bowman said, "but sooner or later we're all going to deal with them."

Days stretched into weeks, and other tree sitters took their place.

On Day 149, Phillip Flagg told us about the high winds, heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures he had endured.

"As long as there is any chance we can stop it, I feel like we've got to give it a try," Flagg told us in January. "Will it work out? Who knows. We'll see."

Today, Mountain Valley Pipeline says the project is 90% complete. In a written statement Friday morning, the company said the best way to protect the environment and minimize potential erosion and sedimentation is to "complete construction and finalize restoration activities on the project's right-of-way."

The company argued a reliable source of clean, low-cost energy will help move the region forward. And MVP said "it is unfortunate that opponents of the MVP project want to deprive communities of the direct benefits associated with reliable access to domestically produced natural gas."

On Day 366, the music was playing, and the people who have supported the protest over the last year were celebrating.

"This is our region to take care of," said pipeline opponent Russell Chisholm. "And i think the message from the tops of the trees on down is that it is worth protecting."

The small wooded area on Yellow Finch Lane might be the last spot on the entire 300-mile route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline where the trees are still standing.

The tree sitters, and their supporters on the ground say their act of defiance isn't over.