Add Event My Events Log In

Upcoming Events

    LouLife

    Print this page

    For decades after it was discovered in 1963, the Hidden Springsnail lived up to its name. At barely two-millimeters long, with a milky-white, nearly translucent shell, Fontigens cryptica turned up only a handful of times and never once in Kentucky. Turns out, the aptly named micro mollusk was just hiding.

    In May, after years of hunting within the soil and sediment, researchers at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest south of Louisville found a living Hidden Springsnail in an underground aquifer at the Cedar Grove wildlife corridor. Now that tiny gastropod, which hadn’t been seen alive by anyone, anywhere, for 20 years, is at the center of a highly visible dispute between Bernheim and Kentucky’s largest utility, Louisville Gas & Electric.

    At issue is a 12-mile natural-gas pipeline that LG&E plans to build in Bullitt County, allowing it to expand its services to an area that’s adding 1,200 residents a year. “There is limited to no capacity remaining on the existing line that runs through the Bullitt County area,” LG&E spokesperson Natasha Collins says. The new line will allow LG&E to “serve expanded growth” and provide more reliability to existing customers, she says.

    But the pipeline’s proposed path is causing protests. Stretching from eastern Bullitt County to I-65, the pipeline would pass through property belonging to dozens of private landowners, Bernheim among them. Last year, the 16,000-acre forest bought the 494-acre Cedar Grove wildlife corridor. That property, which is separate from Bernheim proper, is made up of forested knobs, clearings dotted with deer and creeks teeming with biodiversity. If LG&E has its way, it’ll soon be home to 4,000 feet of the proposed natural-gas pipeline.

    Andrew Berry, Bernheim’s director of conservation, says LG&E would lay waste to a large swath of the land for the pipeline, threatening wildlife habitats and permanently scarring the landscape. Collins disputes that, noting that the pipeline would run alongside an existing power line on largely cleared land. The pipeline’s path, she points out, was also determined more than a year before Bernheim bought the land. Berry also mentions safety concerns, citing a Lincoln County pipeline explosion in August that killed a woman.

    Bernheim is among a handful of landowners refusing to sell to LG&E, which has responded by attempting to take control of the land through eminent domain. In the last week of September, the Bullitt County Circuit Clerk gave Bernheim 20 days to make the case that LG&E should not be allowed to move forward with its plans, which have already been approved by the Kentucky Public Service Commission. (Bernheim’s response to the court was not available at press time.)

    Bernheim, which celebrates 90 years this year, is busy building public support. Yellow yard signs reading “SAVE BERNHEIM FOREST” began popping up in Louisville this summer. The organization is holding a “State of the Forest” anniversary event at the Frazier History Museum on Nov. 7. “People have told me: Snails can’t stop pipelines,” Berry says. “In general, they don’t. Just as humans are responsible for damaging and destroying our forest and other resources, it’s humans that have to recognize what we’re losing and humans who have to stand up and protect those resources when necessary.”

    This originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline “Can a Tiny Snail Save Bernheim?” To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Illustration by Shae Goodlett, shaedraws.com

    Share On:

    Upcoming Events

      Event Finder

      Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or RSS