Threatened by wind turbines: Camp Allegheny nominated for the 2011 most endangered historic sites listing of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
Camp Allegheny, a Civil War battlefield and winter encampment on the WV-VA border, has been nominated by Highlanders for Responsible Development to be listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of America's 11-Most Endangered Historic Places. The National Trust is a private non-profit organization, and its highly competitive most-endangered list is intended to raise public awareness of threats to important historic places across the nation. Camp Allegheny previously appeared on the Civil War Trust's 2009 and 2010 listings of Most-Endangered Battlefields. Camp Allegheny has also been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990.
2011 is the 150-year anniversary of the battle at Camp Allegheny that helped to block the federal advance on Virginia from the west and set the stage for Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign. The day-long battle at Camp Allegheny in December of 1861 involved approximately 3000 soldiers and 280 casualties.
Camp Allegheny, the highest-elevation and most-pristine Civil War battlefield east of the Mississippi, has been preserved due to the remote location of the site and thanks to the stewardship of the current private and National Forest owners. This well-preserved historic site is now threatened, however, by construction of 400-foot wind turbines that would dominate a panoramic mountain view from the battlefield that has been remarkably little altered in the century and a half since the engagement.
The nomination was submitted to the National Trust by Highlanders for Responsible Development (HRD), a citizen's group formed in 2005 in response to Highland New Wind Development's (HNWD) proposal to build 19 wind turbines in the remote mountain area along the border of VA's Highland County and WV's Pocahontas County.
The wind energy project has been at the center of continuous controversy and repeated legal challenges since it was first announced in 2002.
The location of the proposed wind project on the state border has created a interstate regulatory problem that has thus far defied solution. Camp Allegheny is in WV, the wind turbine project would be located in VA.
After the Virginia Department of Historic Resources complained to the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) that HNWD failed to cooperate in an assessment of impacts to the battlefield, in 2010 the SCC took the position that it has no jurisdiction to address impacts across the border. Federal oversight of the wind project would require historic preservation offices in Virginia and West Virginia to cooperate with federal authorities in assessing impact to Camp Allegheny. HNWD has avoided this federal oversight.
In addition to the battlefield issue, the HNWD project faces a number of other problems, including a pending complaint under the Endangered Species Act, potential violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and potential pollution problems associated with extensive earth disturbance in the headwaters of Laurel Fork, a high-quality native brook trout stream.
Although HNWD owner and developer, Tal McBride, has declared that the turbine blades will be spinning this summer, a recent article in Virginia Business magazine indicates that the company has not been able to obtain a power purchase agreement with the electric utilities. An earlier warning by HNWD lawyer, John Flora, of Harrisonburg law firm, Lenhart Obenshain, PC, indicated that the stringent environmental conditions imposed on the project by the SCC would scare away investors.
It's not clear at this point if the range of issues surrounding HNWD has deterred the power purchasers and investors needed for the $80 million project.