Loss Of Population In Pocahontas County Could Affect Redistricting
Marlinton, WV – All three Allengheny Mountain Radio Counties lost population in the decade from 2000 to 2010, according to figures released this week by the US Bureau of the Census. On a percentage basis, Highland lost the most, with an 8% decline over the decade, while Bath lost 6% and Pocahontas lost 5%.
These census numbers are important in terms of federal and state money coming in to a county, as allocations are often based on population numbers. It can also be important on the political front, as State legislatures redistrict their Senate and House seats after each census. The new alignments will be effective for the 2012 election.
Some folks in Pocahontas have been hoping that the legislative redistricting this year would change the current alignment of Pocahontas and Randolph from a two-member house of delegates district into two single member districts. Pocahontas would have a big enough percentage of the population for a local person to have a good chance to win election to the House, they are hoping.
However, the census figures just released make that less likely. As of 2000, Pocahontas County made up a little over a quarter of the two-county total, but with a slight loss here and a slight increase in Randolph, currently well within 25%. Even in a single member district made up of all Pocahontas and part of Randolph, it would contain more than half Randolph residents.
Change is likely in the boundaries of the 15th senatorial district. Currently the area served by Walt Helmick and Clark Barnes extends from Pocahontas on the south to Morgan County bordering Maryland on the North. It is West Virginias largest Senatorial District.. The rapid growth in the Eastern Panhandle counties – 15th district counties include Berkeley, which lead the state with a 37% gained 37% in ten years, Hampshire with 19% and Morgan with 17%.. – means that it’s likely these counties will be part of a new eastern panhandle district, while Pocahontas may be joined with its more traditional senate district partners Webster and Nicholas plus several other counties.
Historical Census Data For Bath, Highland and Pocahontas Counties
The population in 2010 as reported by the census – Highland, 2,321, Bath 4,731; Pocahontas 8,719. On the positive side, the 2009 census bureau estimate for Pocahontas had been only 8,418, while they just about hit the nail on the head for Bath and highland. The total for Pocahontas was the lowest for any census since 1900, when the population was 8,572.
Ten years later, at the height of the timber boom, the population had jumped to 14,740, and the count reached its all-time high in 1920, with 15,002. However, the lumber business was already on the decline in 1920, and it’s likely that the actual peak was a couple of years earlier, when the end of WWI depressed demand for lumber.
The Pocahontas population has been on a gradual downward trend for the last 90 years, but experienced one significant uptick – in 1980, when employment at the Bath County Pumped Storage project was the major factor in a 12% jump, from 8,870 in 1970 to 9,919 in 1980. However, almost all this increase was lost by 1990, by which time the population had gone back down to just a little over the 1970 level. The Back Creek boom also affected Bath, which saw population jump by 13% from 1970 to 1980 and drop 15% from 1980 to 1990. In Highland the comparable figures were a 16% increase followed by a 10% decrease
Looking back in history at the Virginia Counties, the Highland population peaked in 1900 with 5,697 residents while Bath topped out at 6,538 in 1910.