AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Owners of hundreds of properties in three counties will receive letters from Dominion Resources, asking permission to survey their land for a proposed natural gas pipeline.

Landowners in Augusta, Nelson and Buckingham Counties are now in the path of new alternative routes for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. These new alternatives affect 281 properties in those counties.

One of the new route options shifts the pipeline eight miles south, to cross the mountain through the George Washington National Forest and run near Nellysford instead of Afton.

Two other routes change the path around Lovingston to avoid areas damaged by Hurricane Camille.

A fourth option re-directs the pipeline around Wingina's historic district.

Dominion says these alternatives are due to Nelson Co. landowners blocking its surveying crews.

“Until we get permission to survey property in Nelson County and other counties, we're going to find the best route by doing so. That's why we're looking at alternative routes at this point,” said Dominion spokesperson Frank Mack.

“We are not interested in evaluating the pros and cons of alternative routes unless they are out of Nelson and use existing rights of ways,” said Joanna Salidis with Friends of Nelson.

The Friends of Nelson group plans to continue the fight to oppose the pipeline. Its president says all of these routes threaten private property rights and safety.

Dominion is putting together an open house to meet with these new property owners in the path of these alternatives. That meeting will be held on Thursday, March 5, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Nelson County High School. 

Press release from Friends of Nelson:

Dominion's recent release of proposed “alternative routes” has Nelson County landowners outraged. And so does Dominion's reliance on eminent domain as the “preferred alternative” to transport vast quantities of natural gas for export.

“The fact that Dominion has now gone on record with a handful of routes doesn't solve any of their problems,” said Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson. “These will impact an entirely new list of landowners, resulting in increased property owner resistance and lawsuits. Dominion continues to ignore all requests to drop the proposal or to use existing pipeline easement infrastructure instead of depending solely on eminent domain to achieve its business goals. ”

This morning's protests in Richmond give further proof of how widespread and deep-seated is the opposition to Dominion's plans. “You don't have to be a property-owner under threat of eminent domain to see how bad and long-lived the effects of this pipeline would be,” Salidis said.

Dominion's latest move is in direct response to widespread opposition to the proposed Atlantic Coat Pipeline. “Dominion received immense push back from the public from their applications to survey across the George Washington and Monongahela National Forest. Dominion's application specified that there was ‘no alternative' to their proposed route,” said Ernie Reed of Wild Virginia. The George Washington National Forest has received over 5,000 comment letters, many of which asked that survey should be denied. Dominion failed to consider an alternative that would minimize impacts to the forest or that would follow existing easements and rights-of-way. “Dominion's only proposed route was in clear violation of the GW Forest Plan, pure and simple,” said Reed.

In addition, Dominion's assertion that there is a need for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is “hollow”, says Reed. “Our research, including the growing financial viability of renewables, demonstrates otherwise. Most of this fracked gas will be headed for foreign markets with no public, domestic or local benefits.”

“Dominion is just shuffling its cards,” said Salidis. “By threatening so many more property owners and landscapes, today's news that Dominion is considering new alternate routes just brings into sharper focus what we already know. Large diameter high pressure transmission lines like the ACP are at the intersection of what may be the most important social issues today - climate change and the rise of special interest domination of fundamental American values like property rights, safety, and civil liberties.”