Sabal Trail Cuts Through Conservation Land

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson — “Make it bumpy for them”


Thomas Lynn of the Valdosta Daily Times has written the following article, in which Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, OSFR policy director, is quoted.  Scroll 

Sabal Trail pipeline to cut through conservation land

  • By Thomas Lynn
  • 21 hrs ago

LIVE OAK, Fla. — Sabal Trail Transmission will lay a pipeline through more than 17 acres of conservation easement land.

At a Suwannee River Water Management District meeting last week, the board consented to allow Sabal Trail to lay around three miles of pipe through a large piece of Chinquapin farm land.

Sabal Trail is laying a natural gas pipeline that will cut through Alabama, Georgia and Florida. The proposed path has included Lowndes and Brooks counties.

SRWMD bought 6,350 acres from Chinquapin Farm in December 2010 for conservation easement.

Conservation easements are perpetual agreements that leave the basic ownership and management of property with the landowner, but permanently restrict the use and alteration of the land.

SRWMD holds conservation easements on several properties where Sabal Trail wishes to run pipeline. After negotiations regarding the land stalled, Sabal Trail filed an eminent domain lawsuit against SRWMD, said George Reeves, SRWMD governing board general counsel.

On two other properties, the district approved settling the lawsuits for Sabal Trail to use conservation land. Reeves said the company has the authority under eminent domain to acquire the land.

“We haven’t gone into full litigation mode, and I think there are things that can be argued,” he said. “But, ultimately, they have the authority to get the property.”

Sabal Trail agreed to pay assessed value price at $2,200 an acre for a little more than $43,000. If SRWMD took the lawsuit to court and lost, it would receive less money for the land, Reeves said.

During public comment, Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, with the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental group, urged the board to make it hard on Sabal Trail.

“Make it bumpy for them,” she said. “This is important to us.”

She argued that Sabal Trail still needed permits to lay pipe on the land. But Reeves said permits had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

“If they don’t have their permits then they’re about to buy a lot of land they can’t use,” Reeves said.

Overall the land for the pipeline will be little compared to the whole conservation easement. And the land being used by Sabal Trail will be temporary. The pipes will be laid underground and then covered.

The rest of the more than 6,000 acres will still be protected by SRWMD.

Sabal Trail also purchased 6.959 acres of land that will be removed from the conservation easement. The land will be used for parking and holding a facility.

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