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Monthly Archives: February 2018

I traveled back to Lancaster County in January 2018 with the sole purpose of photographing the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline construction project.  

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, near Mount Joy, Jan 2018

My goal was to photograph the construction project in full swing–and my timing proved fortuitous.  During my first day photographing, I discovered pipe in the trench at the southern end of the line, ready to be buried.  There were sections with welded pipe, sections with unwelded pipe, sections with soil removed but no pipe, and sections with vehicle tracks over farm fields.  During the following two weeks, I watched as tasks were completed, and crews and equipment moved northward.  

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, Red Hill Road, Martic Township, Jan 2018

Based on my childhood memories of winters, I knew that the weather might be bad–January is the coldest month, the most likely to have snow and freezing temperatures.  But my luck held with the weather–the days were warm and sometimes sunny–and many of the nights were cold enough to freeze the soil.  There was also a rain of about 0.3 inches.   The result was a glorious mud mess.  

 

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, Red Hill Road, Jan 2018

 

My timing was intended to reveal the construction project during its most visible disruption to the landscape.  I know that once the pipe is buried and the grass planted, the pipeline will be largely invisible, except for the markers indicating where the pipe crosses under the road, and in the treeless right-of-ways through forests.  The wounds will heal, but scars will remain.  

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, Silver Springs Road, Drumore Township, Jan 2018

 

This project has also made me aware of some of my family history.  In reading about the Conestoga Indian Village, I discovered that  in 1739, my ancestor Jacob Witmer settled nearby, apparently maintaining neighborly relations with the Natives.  In 1763, the Paxton boys massacred the Indians, and threatened to kill anyone who dared identify them.  As a child, my uncle Oliver Hess farmed some land along Indian Marker Road (currently farmed by Donnie Witmer–same name as my dad).  Nearby Witmer Road, Witmer Run, and Witmers Run still carry the family name.  

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, Drytown Road, Martic Township, Jan 2018

The Paxton Boys justified their killing of the Indians, as they were “not making good use of the land.”   The argument for the pipeline is not that much different:  Williams Pipeline company is hugely profitable, and can offer farmers payments far in excess of what they make farming the land.  

Of course, Williams isn’t killing anybody, at least not directly.  But there are moral and ethical questions that can be asked about this project.  On a global scale, this project will deliver massive amounts of fossil fuels to markets, adding to climate change.  The contracts for the gas to be shipped through the pipeline are mostly for export, and could lead (decades from now) to energy shortages in the US, or to higher prices for natural gas for US consumers.  On a more personal level, what gives a large corporation the right to seize land from individual landowners through eminent domain, when the “public interest” claim is so tenuous?   Do land owners, or Native Americans have a sacred right to keep their lands from being disturbed?  

Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, Pequea Creek Crossing, Jan 2018

But what I found myself thinking about, as I drove the pipeline route, was how much this land has changed already, in my lifetime.  My father had a small farm–57 acres, a herd of 14 dairy cows–and told me that he didn’t think I could make a living on that farm.  Now, all the small farms are gone, except for those farmed by Amish (who are expanding their range).  Most of  the old stone barns have been Martha Stewartized–new roofs, new pointing, clean barnyards, and Christmas wreaths on the barn doors.  The “real” farms have huge new chicken and pig houses with massive ventilation fans, and big new tractors in the steel pole barns.  The Earl Butz “get big or get out” curse has run its course.  There are no more family farms.  

When I left the county in 1980, my fear was that the county would be paved over, becoming one huge housing development.  The changes that have occurred are different than I expected–there are still fields, but almost no farmers.  I’m not quite sure what to make of it.  

My distress about the pipeline through the landscape of my childhood is mixed with the other changes that have occurred.  Change happens.  Of course, in 1739, the change was brought about by a German immigrant named Jacob Witmer.  

 

  

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