Pocahontas Farmers Want To Protect Water Without A Lot Of Extra Regulations
Marlinton, WV – Pocahontas County farmer Don McNeel has a very simple reason why he agreed to serve on the steering committee for the county’s Water Resource Task Force.
“I started serving on this committee mostly as probably a defensive mechanism more than anything because as a farmer, I didn’t want any more regulations put on me.”
McNeel spoke those words at Pocahontas Water Resource Task Force meeting held in early August. Lynmarie Knight, who heads up the task force, says this meeting was set up specifically to inform farmers about the efforts to create a water management for the county and also to get input from local farmers.
Knight says the WRTF started in late 2008, as a response to protecting water sources in light of the interest in gas drilling in the county. She says about the same time, the West Virginia Dept of Environmental Protection was tasked with coming up with a statewide water management plan, similar to plans already well established in many other states. That plan is due to be completed by 2013. But Knights says local entities such as a county can create their own plan to supplement the state plan.
Earlier this year, the task force held a meeting with industry and natural resources representatives to get their input on the water management plan. Several local farmers turned out for the August meeting. One of those is John Leyzorek, who offers his opinion.
“Whatever a water resource task force may say, I think one of the things it needs to say is that development is the clear and obvious enemy of water quality.” says Leyzorek “And I’m here for about the same reason that Don McNeel says he got involved in it because I don’t want somebody with a big stick pushing me around. But I don’t want to see this group or any other group advising government to take away more property rights.”
But Knight says the Pocahontas water management plan will not include additional rules or regulations.
“Anybody whether they be an individual citizen, a representative of industry or business, or whether they have a position in government can take it and use it however they see fit; it’s a public document” says Knight. “But I think one of the potential benefits of it is that it will have recommendations and that will include things like looking you know there is not enough water in this area to support development.”
Task force member Beth Little says the document will also include information about how many residents use well water. This in turn will also influence recommendations for development or other uses of county land. Fritz Boettner with Downstream Strategies, an environmental consulting group says they are looking at subsurface sources of water as well.
“As far as Phase one, we’re just trying to get as much data as possible” he says. “We’re reaching out to different caving organizations, and the DEP also has a program that they map a lot of the underground streams; where the sinks are and the streams presently. At present, we have over 140 dye trace locations where they dropped dye and they mapped out where it came [out]; identifying over 70 unknown underground streams.”
“We have a geologist who’s working as part of this team; he’s a cave specialist and he’s delineated now over 20 new underwater sub basins. We also have in our database over 370 known cave locations; worked out an agreement with the caving societies.”
Knight says all the information, except some cave locations, will be added to a database that will eventually be available online and in print form. For now, they continue to collect information and input from county residents. You can help with that effort by filling out a confidential anonymous survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/WRTFCommunitySurvey.