Pocahontas County Water Management Plan Phase One Gets Rolling
Marlinton, WV – Phase one of a three phase water resource management plan for Pocahontas County is getting started, under the auspices of the Pocahontas County Water Resources Task Force. Lynmarie Knight, a former Americorps Vista who was instrumental in getting the Task Force going, explains why the county is taking on this project.
“How the task force got started was really a group of concerned citizens who heard about [West Virginia] Senate bill 641, which is also known as the Water Resource Management and Protection Act, which the state of West Virginia passed in 2008” says Knight. “That’s the bill that mandated that our state create a state wide water management plan. And it also contained a provision that local governments could create regional plans, and that the state would work with us to adopt those into the state wide plan.”
Knight was speaking during the first of at least two stakeholder meetings about the county plan with representatives of town government, farming, industry, natural resources and the US Forest Service. She says another meeting for the general public will be scheduled at a later date. She says Pocahontas is the first county in the state to undertake such a project.
Phase one is largely data collection; identifying the stakeholders in the process, taking an inventory of the current water resources, both on the surface and underground, and publishing a report on those resources. In this regard, the task force has hired Downstream Strategies, an environmental consulting group based in Morgantown. DS in turn has hired other experts such as a karst geologist and a hydrologist to help gather and analyze the data collected.
Phase two of the project will further refine the inventory data, fill in possible gaps, and identity crucial water resource planning zones. Phase three will include developing policies and guidelines, outreach and education. The goal of the project is to produce a living document of best practices for using and protecting the counties’ water resources.
Karst geologist Jeff Bray says the data gathered will help the task force identify some specifics about water resources in the county.
“Certainly one goal of Phase one of this project is to identify some of those historic scenarios where there might be servere droughts or severe floods and recognize where those have happened” says Bray, “and how quickly either we respond to them or the ground water or water table response to them and so forth, so that we have a better understanding. I think a lot of it in this particular phase especially is just recognizing those historical highs and lows and learning how to maybe try to deal with them.”
Marlinton Mayor Dennis Driscoll says that kind of information is critical for town management.
“I use 4,500,000 gallons of water a month, and it comes right out of that creek” says Driscoll. “If I don’t get 4,500,000 gallons a month, I don’t supply the Town of Marlinton, I don’t supply those six or seven hundred customers that we have. And if something were to go on upstream that could affect it, we got a problem.”
“Right now, I do it by the seat of my pants; when the stream starts to get low, we cheat a little bit and move some rocks around [to improve flow].”
Driscoll says that may also mean creating some type of targeted zoning to ensure that all water needs can be met.
Fritz Boettner, geographic information systems specialist for DS, also got a lesson in plain speaking from farmer Ed Riley, as heard in this exchange.
“You tell me you’re going to determine land use” says Riley, “you’re telling me to get my cattle out of the stream; I may not be able to plow this field up here anymore. You need to watch your terminology.”
“Point taken” says Boettner. “That’s part of the specific suggestions that I’m [going to] work on our terminology so we don’t make confusions like that. Because all it takes is one misspoken word or one thing that is taken out of context and all of a sudden, we’re going to tell everybody what to do, and that’s not the case whatsoever.”
Lynmarie Knight says the group recently got confirmation of forestry funding to begin the data collection. Those activities will begin as soon as the money is released. For more information about this project, please visit their website www.pocahontaswater.org.