Bent Mountain landowner, pipeline company spar over disputed burial ground

Published: May. 30, 2018 at 9:17 PM EDT
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The Mountain Valley Pipeline is facing time-of-year restrictions, a May 31st deadline to finish tree felling in the project's right-of-way. So the cutting continues on Bent Mountain in areas where the work hasn't been completed.

Wednesday morning, crews were working on the property of the Chandler family, taking down trees near a spring and sensitive wetlands.

On another part of the same property, the pipeline right of way passes an area identified by tribal representatives as a native American burial ground.

And while the corridor now skirts the site, Kathy Chandler says it's still in harm's way.

"I believe that we have a significant landslide event in the making," Chandler told WDBJ7, "right above this burial site, and right above Mill Creek."

MVP disputes the site's historic significance, saying its cultural experts concluded the rock pile was originally created because of field clearing. The company says there is no historical evidence to support claims the site is a burial ground.

Although MVP says it has tried to accommodate landowner concerns, a spokesperson said it's disappointing opponents continue to manufacture reasons to oppose the project.

Following is the company's statement:

"MVP's cultural experts have reviewed the area in question on multiple occasions, and in fact conducted an additional in-depth analysis consisting of on-the-ground surveying and historic aerial imagery analysis. Based on this additional evaluation, MVP’s cultural experts concluded the rock push pile was originally created as a result of historic field clearing. As submitted to the FERC, there is no factual or verifiable historical evidence to support claims that the site in question is a burial ground."

"In keeping with our commitment to work with landowners, MVP had previously made accommodations to address the stated landowner concerns, including modifying its construction activities in the area of the rock push pile to avoid and protect it during construction. It is disappointing but not surprising that opponents of the project continue to manufacture reasons to oppose this important infrastructure project, despite the extensive field work and efforts of the project team to evaluate and accommodate their requests."

Chandler takes issue with the company's analysis, and the work that continues on her property.

"Everybody's going to be able to say 'I told you so,' and it won't matter," Chandler said, "because the damage will be happening."