West Virginia Rivers News: April 2023

Comment on RV Park Proposals for Cacapon State Park

The WV Department of Natural Resources requested proposals for the private development of an RV park with amenities on Cacapon State Park. There is a public hearing regarding three responses for these developments in Cacapon State Park. The hearing will be held April 18, 2023 at 5 pm in the Washington Fairfax Room of the Cacapon Resort State Park Lodge. We invite you to read for yourself the full proposals and find out what private developers propose to do with our public lands. We will be at the April 18 meeting in person to make sure that our concerns for our WV public lands are heard.

The project proposals include up to 350 RV slots with extensive amenities including a “snowflex” year-round synthetic mountainside slide to a proposal to partner with a nearby private campground being built. Building a mega RV park and private amenities in Cacapon will negatively affect existing road and wastewater infrastructure, cause substantial earth disturbance, result in clearcutting and developing the steep slope and mountain ridge top that makes Cacapon unique, and impact the Indian Run and the entire Sleepy Creek watershed.
We are concerned that any project is compatible with the purposes of public lands and is affordable for all West Virginians. We also do not want our state park system directly cometing with already planned private non-park development that will bring tax revenue to local communities.

This is the first test of last’s year new legislation allowing private development on our state lands. Your actions to the legislature required this public notice and public hearing to happen for any private development on our state lands. Here’s your chance to let the decision makers know you oppose a mega RV park and private club amenities in Cacapon Resort State Park.

Advocating for Rail Safety

The Ohio River Valley and its tributaries are no strangers to drinking water impacts from the transportation of hazardous substances. Throughout the region, our rivers and streams are vulnerable to contamination events and need to be protected. Millions of people and wildlife depend on these waters.

Following the Norfolk Southern trail derailment in Ohio, we had a smaller accident occur with a CSX derailment on the New River. On March 8th, a CSX train collided with a rockslide and derailed in the heart of the New River Gorge National Park, leaking diesel fuel into the New River. All three crew members on board the train were injured.

Photo Credit: Jenny Harnish/Register Herald

We partnered with our friends at New River Conservancy to write to our law makers and asking them to co-sponsor legislation that would improve regulations around the transportation of hazardous chemicals. Read more about how we advocating for rail safety in our blog by Ohio River Coordinator, Heather Sprouse.

Ohio River in Need of Federal Funding

Friends of the Tug Fork River vice-president, John Burchett, votes during the Williamson listening session on the concerns he thinks are most important to prioritize in ORBA’s Restoration Plan.

Every year, the federal government invests hundreds of millions of dollars to protect water system across the country. But the Ohio River Basin currently gets $0. The Ohio River Basin Alliance (ORBA) is working to change this by creating a Basin-wide Restoration Plan to compel Congress to designate the Ohio River as a protected water system, opening the door to these much needed federal funds. With aid from the National Wildlife Federation and state affiliate groups- such as us!- ORBA’s plan for the Ohio River Basin is founded upon the voice of hundreds of locals. We’ve helped host listening sessions up and down the West Virginia portion of the Ohio River, including in Wheeling, Parkersburg and Huntington.

This month, we co-hosted a session in Williamson with Friends of the Tug Fork River. Twenty residents attended and spoke up about concerns and hopes for their river, a tributary of the Ohio by way of the Big Sandy River. Using conversation and informal voting, residents identified which issues need prioritized. Each community has unique concerns, but many join us- we all need resilience to increased flooding events, opportunities for water access and recreation, ecosystem restoration and small business development through river based tourism. Together, we can succeed in securing the investments needed to solve our problems before they get worse and most costly to fix.

ORBA’s plan will be delivered to Congress this summer! Stay tuned for updates

Methane and Climate Change

Last month our climate campaign coordinator spoke on a panel at the West Virginia University Energy Institute called “The Other Greenhouse Gas and Why It Matters for West Virginia” to highlight the importance of mitigating methane, a potent greenhouse gas. “If we don’t drastically cut emissions starting now we are going to lock in warming that is going to be detrimental.”  Days before the panel, the world’s leading body on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released their latest and final report until 2030.

The evidence shows that our current use of fossil fuels will lock in dangerous levels of warming and irreversible ecological impacts in less than a decade. This means with our current policies we are projected to use up the remaining carbon budget by the early 2030s thus reaching that limit of 1.5C twenty years early. This final warning from the IPCC comes at a critical moment for our country to cut methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, among all greenhouse gasses.

Fourth Circuit Court Throws Out Mountain Valley Pipeline Permit in WV

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has thrown out a crucial permit that the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) needed to proceed with construction activities in West Virginia streams and wetlands. Without the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) 401 water quality certification, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can’t allow construction in streams anywhere along the entire 304-mile project.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates argued the case on behalf of the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and Indian Creek Watershed Association. The Court concluded:

  1. WVDEP did not sufficiently address MVP’s violation history.
  2. WVDEP did not include a condition requiring MVP to comply with the construction stormwater protection permit.
  3. WVDEP did not provide a reasoned basis for relying on EPA’s upland stormwater construction permit.
  4. WVDEP did not articulate an adequate explanation for forgoing location-specific antidegradation review.

The ruling is a significant setback for the troubled pipeline project, which is already years behind schedule, barely half complete to full restoration, and billions over budget. The case was built on thousands of hours of work over the last 10 years at WV Rivers as we trained volunteers, analyzed and commented on permits, submitted citizen complaints, met with WVDEP, analyzed water quality data, and tracked MVP’s violations.

This isn’t the end of the MVP saga and alot of questions remain about where the process goes from here. For now, we invite you to celebrate with us a decision that protects West Virginia’s river and streams from additional harm.

Learn How WV Communities Can Benefit From Inflation Reduction Act

Come to learn about how individuals, municipalities, and organizations in West Virginia can benefit from millions of dollars of investments contained in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Last summer, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act which includes historic investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, and community development initiatives.

At these events, community members and elected officials will have the opportunity to learn from experts from around the state about how to put these investments to use in homes and communities.

  • Thursday, April 20 at 6:00pm at Fayetteville Town Hall. View and share the Facebook event here!
  • Saturday, April 22, 1:00pm at Cabell County Public Library in Huntington. View and share the Facebook event here!
  • Thursday, May 4 at 6:00pm at Suncrest United Methodist in Morgantown. View and share the Facebook event here!

Celebrate Earth Week at an Event Near You!

WV Rivers and partners are organizing a WaterFaire for Earth Day on Saturday, April 22 at Sam Michaels Park from 10 am to 2 pm. Activities will include bird and nature walks, a rain barrel workshop, a tree planting at the park, and food trucks. This will be a family friendly event with activities for kids and adults to explore the wonder of nature in their backyard.

If you are interested in participating in the rain barrel workshop, please contact Jody Sims at jsims@epcd.us. The first twenty registrants will receive a free rain barrel. On Friday April 21 at 7 pm, the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission will show the movie The Lorax at the AMP pavilion. More information is available on the Facebook event.

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