The Pocahontas Times readers' letters
Letter to the Editor
Many concerned citizens of Upper Pocahontas County wonder why the commissioner we elected to represent us is going against the wishes of a very large number of Upper Pocahontas County citizens. He was not for putting the Snowshoe sewage treatment plant on the Sharp farm, but he is for putting large amounts human sewage from Snowshoe in a holding area in one of the beautiful towns of Pocahontas County. This smells and we will remember this at his next election.
If Snowshoe has a problem with the solid waste that continues to accumulate on the mountain, why not dig pits for the sewage on some of Snowshoe's land close to the source of the human sewage. This would conserve fuel and cut down on Mr. Meck's trucking expenses. Businesses and individuals do need to look for ways to cut back on the consumption of gasoline. It seems absurd to truck tens of thousands of this septic waste and all of its contaminants down the narrow mountain road from Snowshoe and then along the narrow and twisty road that comes out of Cass in order to deposit it in a residential community.
Commissioner David Fleming wears at least two hats - one as an elected Pocahontas County Commissioner and one as a board member for the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation. He can vote to send a deed for our public land (which belongs to Pocahontas County taxpayers and citizens) to the GVEDC so that they can lease it or sell it to whomever they choose and for any amount they want. Does this sound like a conflict of interest to anyone? If you ask Commissioner Fleming, he will tell you he is doing the right thing. How can it be the right thing when so many citizens are against this? How can it be the right thing when we, the citizens, lose the land and no money comes back to the county?
Do you, the taxpayers of Pocahontas County, know that Pocahontas County pays the Greenbrier Valley EDC $11,000 a year to handle this public land - even if they do not sell any land during the year? The GVEDC also receives close to $7,000 per month from Interstate Lumber for the use of 5.1 acres of your public land at Frank; that is over $80,000 a year. Then there is the $50 per acre per month that Jacob Meck pays for the three acres in Green Bank - $1800 per year. Also, Sun Propane in Frank pays for 1 acre at $50 per month for storage. These amounts add up to over $90,000 per year going to the Greenbrier Valley EDC with no return to Pocahontas County.
This situation needs to change quickly. Is Pocahontas County so wealthy that we can afford to give this land and money away? Perhaps there is something smelly here also.
Letters to the Editor
In 2011, when some of us first heard of the plan to lease nine acres of public land in Green Bank for storage of human waste and sewage, we expressed our concern to the Pocahontas County Commission by emails, telephone calls, and a petition. A notice appeared in The Pocahontas Times inviting citizens to an event at the NRAO Visitor Center auditorium. We expected to attend this meeting and learn details of this plan - perhaps a proposal with information that would show how the land, water, and air would be protected from any contamination. At this event, we were shown a slide presentation of the Meck's business accomplishments and were introduced to their employees and families. We were told at the beginning that those of us who had prepared brief statements would be allowed to read those statements, but no questions would be allowed during the evening. We heard from other speakers who had been chosen by the Mecks, but none of them gave us any new information concerning the sewage tank issue.
Now there is this new plan. The survey that was sent to the Pocahontas County Commission in February 2012 shows a 100,000 gallon tank and six pits to hold 50,000 gallons each. That is a total of 400,000 gallons of sewage. Why should any small town anywhere become the storage place for this much sewage? And why should sewage from Snowshoe end up in Green Bank? And what is the purpose of storing 400,000 gallons? I have spoken with landowners who were approached by Mr. Meck and asked if they would be interested in spreading this human waste on land as fertilizer. I mentioned this when I read a statement at the NRAO Auditorium in 2011 and again at the March 20 PCC meeting. I did not get any response from Mr. Meck or the Commissioners about this. I have done some reading on the subject. It is a risky practice because this sewage may contain disease-causing pathogens, heavy metals and other contaminants. To remove all of this requires a very expensive facility and a complex process. I have to do more research about West Virginia's regulations concerning this, but I think I will find that the regulations are outdated and need to be revised due to the new pathogens and other contaminants that end up in septic tanks in our modern day world. If this sewage is not treated properly, there is the possibility of contaminating the soil and the water in our streams and wells - also contaminating the farm animals and the wild animals that graze on this land. I have spoken with an environmental scientist who is willing to travel to Pocahontas County (at no cost to Pocahontas County) to speak to any interested citizens who have questions about using septic tank sewage for fertilizer.
The potential use of human sewage on our land should be of concern to all Pocahontas County citizens as this sewage could be offered to landowners anywhere in the county and in other counties. Many landowners might not be aware of the newer types of contaminants in this sewage.
Those of us who live here are truly blessed to live in a part of America that still has clean and safe water to drink. God created this paradise and we should all work very hard to protect it.
Those of us who are opposed to the sewage plan are not villains. We are just citizens who have concerns and are exercising our First Amendment rights. We live in a democracy and have a right to speak freely and to sign petitions when we feel that our elected officials are not acting in the best interest of the public.
Elements of the same libertarian, property rights cabal that would welcome with open arms the depredations of the extractive industries that bring carcinogens and processes that threaten water and environment now want to deny these same property rights to a longtime county resident and respected businessman who provides multiple local jobs and a needed public service to the county.
Lacking courage, the county commission has bent its knee to these strident voices of reaction, resulting in the exodus of these jobs and economic development for our county.
Jacob Meck should sue the county commission for breach of contract.
Letters to the Editor
This country's public lands are our national treasures. They are managed by the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture. Within those agencies are the National Forest Service and the National Park Service.
The approach in the way they manage the recreational experience is in extreme contrast. Burdensome oversight is a distraction from the wilderness experience and the Park Service, with their over-regulation greatly distracts from the ability to commune with nature.
Presently there is a movement for the Park Service to establish a National Park in a portion of the Monongahela National Forest. We should consider the consequences of the different approaches between the two agencies .
A few years ago, we were driving through Yellowstone National Park after vacationing in Alberta, Canada, where we hiked, biked and canoed in the beautiful Canadian Rockies-and at times were assisted by the park rangers there. In Yellowstone, we stopped at a picnic area beside the Yellowstone River. We decided to leave a bike there, drive upstream, launch our canoe and float the mile back to the picnic area.
It was September and a little chilly, but it was beautiful. We commented that our red canoe would make a nice accent on the landscape. When approaching our take-out point, we saw two rangers waving us in. They informed us that the District Ranger wanted to talk to us.
Dragging our canoe up to the picnic area, we saw three cars pull in. Three armed rangers jumped out and rushed over to us. We had no idea what we'd done, but it was obvious we were in trouble. After discussing our infractions, the youngest ranger was left to hand out our citation.
It appears canoeing on this section of the river is prohibited, as is fishing. The ranger drove me the mile to pick up my truck and indicated that they had the right to confiscate my truck, canoe and all we had with us.
The National Park Service manages the New River National Park from Hinton to Gauley Bridge. They have confiscated property and houses along the river, apparently to beautify the "view shed" or to house Park Service personnel. Many of the homes are now boarded up and unused.
I own property below Hinton and worked with the Mary Ingles Trail Club to establish part of that trail. Instead of being interested and willing to help with that great project, Park Service officials indicated they were not interested in working with volunteers.
With the proposal for a National Park in West Virginia that includes Black Water Falls, there will be more burdensome regulations. The National Park Service is not a good neighbor. I challenge you to contact someone who lives near any national park to get their stories. You may hear of arrogance and the attitude that they own the land, as well as restrictions on activities and infringement on freedoms that we like to take for granted.
Please contact Senator Manchin and tell him we do not want the National Park as our neighbor.
In contrast, the National Forest Service assumes that citizens are responsible and can use the land gently. Camping isn't restricted; there are great pull-offs and areas to camp and enjoy these wilderness lands that we own.
I am presently working with the Forest Service to establish OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) trails in the Monongahela National Forest. I've gotten interest from other organizations and individuals and am encouraged that West Virginia will soon join the surrounding states in being able to utilize trails to explore our national forests with OHVs.
The establishing of a national park in part of Pocahontas, and other neighboring counties, and the designation of the Cranberry bogs and backcountry as a national monument, would not only vastly increase tourist revenue to our county but would also preserve land and somewhat (sic) protect the environment from unbridled exploitation in the extraction of mineral resources. Please support Senator Manchin in his laudable efforts on these proposals.
Bob Keller was one the finest County Agents I knew during my years as Director of WVU Extension. During the 80s and 90s, Bob not only supported Pocahontas County farmers but he also was on the lookout for new ideas that might help make a few more dollars. And in the best tradition of extension programs, he worked on projects that were good for the community as a whole-the radio station, strong youth programs, accessible health care. He didn't always get enough credit for what he did, but I knew and did my best to have WVU support him.
After leaving extension, he started a successful business attracting people who fish and hunt to come and stay and enjoy this beautiful place. He concocted sprays to do in the multiflora rose that threatened to take over our farm that is across the creek from him. He and Pat took over the Pocahontas County Country Club and attracted a whole new generation of golfers while keeping the folks that had created and loved the place happy. And he came by every Fall with his potion to kill the lady bugs. He was a great neighbor to all of us.
So I will stop by and try to say comforting things to Pat and Katie and Krissy and mourn the loss of this good man. But I will also remember the important contributions he made to the people of this county. We have lost a really important citizen of Pocahontas.
Letters to the Editor
The residents of Pocahontas County haveﾠbig hearts. I've known this for years, but recently this sentiment has been reinforced by the generosity shown to our less fortunate families through the Marlinton Food Pantry.
In late November, after providing groceries to 67 families during the prior four weeks, there were many empty shelves in the Food Pantry and the funds to buy needed groceries were nearly non-existent. As a matter of fact, we didn't have enough stock or funds to provide the traditional Thanksgiving dinner baskets.
A call went out to the community concerning this matter and the response was overwhelming. Our Pantry is operated entirely by volunteers with donated food and donated money. The need for this service has been steadily increasing with a monthly average of more than 80 families receiving food over the last six months. There have traditionally been food drives during this season and it seems this year that the food drives have been even more successful because, I believe, folks realize that times are hard for a lot of our citizens and want to help. Together, we were able to provide Christmas dinner boxes for 121 families representing about 380 individuals.
May God Bless each one who helped in any way to make this possible.
Marlinton Food Pantry Volunteer
Pocahontas Cooperative Ministries Volunteer
I am concerned that pressure is being put on the state agencies related to the sewage situation by self-serving elements within the county. ﾠﾠAnd, this resulted in the response the PSD received regarding their latest proposal.
Yes, I am an outsider, but only in part. ﾠI grew up in the county ﾠand am a proud product of Marlinton High School; however, due to the need to find ﾠwork I left after high school. I have deep roots in the county going all ﾠthe way back to the early settlers. ﾠI returned a few years ago and ﾠnow am the proud owner of properties in the county. ﾠI cannot vote; ﾠhowever, I contribute significantly to the taxes collected.
It is very disheartening to see people I know torn apart over this ﾠsubject and another one at this time.
If Mr. Litsey truly has the opportunity to gain more than the ﾠother resident who has fought this tooth and nail, let his critics lay out ﾠwhat that gain is. ﾠStop insinuating without putting up the proof. ﾠI ﾠhave never met Mr. Litsey; however, no one deserves to be accused without ﾠsomething concrete being presented.
Those of us who will have to live with the results favor letting the PSD fight for a system that is geared to the needs of today and the future, ﾠif they can be determined. ﾠThere are no zoning laws on the books ﾠof the county; and, I am not advocating for them, however, there should have ﾠbeen a Master Plan for the county - probably too late now to prepare one.
I have no problem with one big sewage facility, if the critics of ﾠﾠPSD's proposal are willing to put their money where their mouths are. ﾠIf ﾠthey will sign an agreement, that, if what they want does injury to me ﾠand other owners of property on the mountain they will reimburse us for all ﾠcosts and lost revenue, I would accept their position. ﾠThere are not many, ﾠif any, deep pockets on Snowshoe Mountain. ﾠWe have all worked to get ﾠwhere we are and resent being labeled as such. ﾠWe should not have to ﾠpay for the development of large tracts of land in the valley. ﾠIn my ﾠcounty here in Virginia, developers put in the infrastructure and it should be ﾠthe same in Pocahontas County.
I love my home county, returning each year to spend many pleasant weeks watching the sunsets and enjoying snowstorms (no I am not crazy) as I did as child growing up on Campbelltown Hill. ﾠI have many friends and ﾠfamily in the county so I do keep up with what is going on.
If anyone is trying to influence decisions in Charleston against the PSD, eventually it will be discovered and hopefully you will be brought to task for it. ﾠIf you are not doing so, please speak out and help, not hinder. ﾠﾠOffer your help so the proposal will be accepted.
Creola Schumaker Loyd
Letters to the Editor
All parties to the discussions about Marcellus shale drilling have used economic arguments to bolster their case. I would like to do something more than spend three seconds shouting "Jobs" and talk about a host of things we can and are doing to enhance and create jobs in Pocahontas County that could actually be harmed by additional drilling and fracking.
First, we should support existing businesses in the county. They are the ones most likely to retain and increase jobs for residents. We should buy local as much as we can. One of the things I most admire about many of the county's newest residents is that they are among the biggest advocates for shopping local and are pleased by the products they get and the service that comes with it. Rather than being critical of people with financial resources who choose to live here, we should be thankful for their dollars that support local business.
Second, economies grow based on their competitive advantage. We are blessed with natural amenities and businesses that depend on them. I'm not just talking about Snowshoe but Elk River, the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, the Dirt Bean and dozens of lodging and eating establishments. The public venues like Watoga Park, the Cass Railroad, the NRAO Science Center, Monongahela National Forest all create good jobs. These tourism-related enterprises are now more than 25 percent of our economy.
Other assets on which to sustain the economy are agriculture, wood products and technology enterprises. The Greenbrier Economic Development Authority just published a study about opportunities in agriculture that support a regional food system. There are businesses and jobs to be created in processing, value added, marketing and distribution. These will add additional income for existing farms that produce for the market. The new slaughterhouse in Highland County will help with the meat processing bottleneck, but there is room a facility here. The county Farmer's Market sold $9,000 worth of products in 2010 and $28,000 in 2011. That's still tiny, but the trend is terrific.
Timbering and milling will always be cyclical and are clearly down right now, but the more value that can be added to wood here in the county, the more jobs, income and money will stay here. Pocahontas Woods has been slow to develop but it focuses on the right idea. When I began leading the extension service 26 years ago, most timbering in the state simply shipped raw logs or green lumber out. The Forestry Extension Program focused on helping mills add dry kilns, an important first step in creating product. Every time I ride my bike past Cramer's and hear the kilns still drying even though the lumber yard is empty, I know they have at least some activity to weather the bad economy.
New technologies allow people to work from any place.
Amenity-rich counties around the country actively recruit young technology entrepreneurs and are often successful. Three things are essential for this-excellent broadband, good schools and good health care. These three need continuing attention in the county if young folks are to stay. The good news is that the young people are coming. They are AmeriCorps members and VISTAs, interns at High Rocks, skiers and mountain bikers. Many of our own are coming back and all of them with whom I have talked want to stay. They are piecing together two or three jobs because they love it here and because they like the lifestyle. They are creating soccer teams, movie nights, music venues, yoga classes-all the things they value.
None of these potential areas of economic growth will be helped if hydraulic fracking comes to the county. Tourism, the biggest part of our economy, will be harmed. I know retirees who are choosing not to come or planning to sell because they won't take a chance that nearby leased land will have wells. Our farms depend upon plentiful clean water and most of us depend on wells for our drinking water.
I care a lot about the ability of young people to stay or come. I'm old. The future is theirs.
Let's take the actions that make this a place they come and stay. Let's concentrate on building on the good assets we have here.
Faith is a Gift.
West Virginia has an observatory in the mountains near the Virginia border. On cold clear nights we gather acres of light from the stars. Then we ponder the Universe, the best that we can. Through our work, we hope we can help mankind better appreciate our World.
The folks working at the observatory sometimes talk of religion. As a scientist, and also a churchgoer, I've tried many times to argue, by logic, the proof of the love of God and the benefits of being a Christian. Unfortunately, my arguments mostly fail. The explanation came as a shock to me, why my arguments never win them over. If the love of Christ was a logical choice, we'd all be Christians. Faith does not come from logic. The wisest early Christians knew, and modern Christians should know: Faith is a Gift.
All the worlds' religions share a common belief. We believe that each of us should do good works for our neighbors. Some think that this belief is inconsistent with the science of survival of the fittest, but scientists believe good works of individuals are signs of a healthy community. However, just like the love of God, the idea of trusting your neighbors' help can not be proven; both must be taken on Faith.
Your family gave you faith in the good of the world. Faith is a perfect gift for all ages. Your acts can build faith in children. Your words can build the faith of your brothers, sisters and parents. Faith in God can give them the strength they need. This intended for you, who were given some faith, but you might have forgotten to use it. You might have forgotten your family needs faith. Do you know there will be a time when your family is desperate for faith?
Faith is a gift that grows. It grows best in a community of friends, and all churches want to give you the strength that comes from faith. Having faith is often a personal struggle, but God can help if you ask. That is the essence of faith. Seek out the church that is right for you, and God will help you build your faith. People in the church of your childhood wanted to give the gift of faith. Often we lose track of our faith, in the time of our strength. Can you give the strength and focus your family needs, with isolated, lonely, weak faith? Faith grows when shared. Sharing faith takes a burden off your family and friends. Pray with them.
Sometimes when I hear people talking about faith in the modern world, it seems like they think faith has been replaced by science. This is not true. The greatest scientists were motivated by faith in God, and science can only function by faith. Those at the observatory believe that careful examination of the clouds and stars in our galaxy makes sense, but only if you believe there is one set of laws in the entire Universe. This cannot be proven, but it seems likely, based on all we have observed. Our faith in God is based on the experience of all our ancestors, and is an important guide to us. This cannot be proved, but seems likely, based on all we have observed.
Others say they do not believe in God, because they cannot see God. We at the observatory do not see anything when we look at the focus of our telescope. Some think that gathering two acres of starlight would make a bright point at the tip of our telescope, but if you put your hand there, you will feel nothing. Your eyes will see nothing. So is it a fraud? There is faint warmth at the focus of our telescopes, but it is so faint, it requires fantastic quiet. It takes a kind of faith to believe that a faint warmth can mean so much.
So this holiday, seek the quiet of your church with your family, grow your strength in faith and give its blessings to your family. Feel its warmth.
If you are a stranger to churches, you are welcome at Liberty Presbyterian Church, in Green Bank. It is surrounded by the observatory. We will have a singing service of Christmas Eve Carols at 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 24. The lights will be on, the bell will be ringing. Worship Sunday, Christmas Day, at 10:15 a.m. at Liberty, 11:30 at Baxter Presbyterian, or 2 p.m. at Alexander Memorial.
Faith is your greatest Gift.
Glen Langston, Elder,
Liberty Presbyterian Church
Not from here.
I was taken aback by Commissioner Jamie Walker's statement at the December 7 Commission meeting, "I was born here, raised here and work three jobs in order to stay here, and don't go to the mailbox for a paycheck (or words to that effect)." In addition, he doesn't want anyone to tell him what he can do or not do with his land.
My wife and I weren't born here or raised here. We came here by choice nine years ago, own 15 acres, a 100-year-old farmhouse and take care of four draft horses. We also don't want people to tell us what we can do or not do with our land. My concern with Commissioner Walker's statement is that he thinks less of our rights as landowners because we weren't born here. I can't claim being from anywhere because I have always been "from away." One branch of my family came to this country in 1630 and settled in New England, cleared the wilderness, were killed by the Indians and fought in the Revolution. Another branch came to Maryland in the 1640s, migrated through Pennsylvania and settled in Western Virginia (Middletown and Shepherdstown) in the 1780s only to leave in the 1820s for Indiana. My wife's family arrived on the Mayflower. We have been in this country for a long time.
Furthermore, and more pertinent, is the fact that I spent 21 years in the military. I flew more than 450 helicopter gunship combat missions in Vietnam, perhaps saving a few residents of this county. As a pilot I risked my life for this country every time I took off from the carrier or deck of a destroyer. In the military we moved every few years to somewhere, so we weren't from anywhere.
As for Mr. Carpenter's comment, "If you come to our county and you enjoy your life here, fine. Don't try to change us, were pretty good right now. Don't be against every business that wants to come into our county." He thinks all outsiders are for zoning and he's not.
The Marcellus horse is out of the barn. People have made their decision to lease or not to lease. When Mr. Carpenter, like Commissioner Walker, says it's his land and doesn't want anyone to tell him what he can or can't do with it, he doesn't realize that those who leased have now zoned their property "Industrial." They no longer have any rights or control over what will happen to their land. You are no longer born here, or raised here. The "leaser," a large company from very far away, who does not care for you or your property, now controls the land that you hold so dear. He can and will do anything he wants to your sacred land, including destroying it. West Virginia has a long history of "large companies" from outside the state of just doing that. Why do we think it will be any different this time?
We are now from Pocahontas County. Our connection to the land and the people is as strong as if we were born here and raised here. We buy local - two trucks from Mitchell's, lumber to build a barn from Smith's Mill, untold supplies from Richardson's, Glades, and Southern States. We volunteer at the Library, the Opera House and GoMarlinton. We square dance with the Pocahontas Promenaders. So don't tell us we're not from here because we weren't born here.
As for going to the mailbox for a paycheck, we draw Social Security and have pensions. We worked hard, saved and planned in order to retire here. We are against zoning, but fear that the place where we chose to die, and perhaps pass on to our kids, will be forever altered or destroyed. Don't think of us as outsiders. We only want the best for this county. In addition, we vote.
Letter to the Editor
Dear Editor: The prospect of "fracking" the Marcellus shale has both excited some and alarmed other citizens of the county. In areas where drilling has already happened many of the sites have produced no reports of ground water contamination. However, some of the drilling sites have polluted the drinking water of nearby homes. No one has good data on how often this happens. Does it happen at one in 10 sites? One in 20 sites? One in five sites? It is not known. And when this water pollution does happen the drilling industry has demonstrated that it does not want to take responsibility for it. The most valuable resource that I have is the reliable, unpolluted, fresh flow of water from the spring that sustains me and my family. This precious liquid flows out from under 2,000 acres that have been leased for gas drilling. Many of the citizens in the county share a similar circumstance. Even if the chance of losing my water is only one in 100, it is a very sobering issue.
History has shown that when industry is held to a higher standard of rules and safeguards, industry will step up and do a better job. So who is going to step up and hold the drilling industry to a higher standard? The federal government has dropped the ball (exclusion from the Clean Water Act). The state of West Virginia hasn't stepped up. That leaves us: the citizens of Pocahontas County. The body that speaks for us is our County Commission which has been grappling with this difficult issue.
What can a humble county commission do when the state and federal governments seem more interested in promoting this industry over the interests of the common man and woman? They need our help.
Letters to the Editor
If you've ever grumbled about the way US companies are sending jobs overseas - and who hasn't - here's some food for thought in this holiday shopping season. "Business Week" estimates that 70% of all goods sold at Wal-Mart are made in China. Wal-Mart was responsible for 9.3 percent of U.S. China imports from 2001-2006, and for 11.2 percent of U.S. job losses due to the trade deficit with China. The growth of Wal-Mart's share of the trade deficit with China alone eliminated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs in this period, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Many of Wal-Mart's "American Suppliers" actually manufacture most or all of their products in China. An example of an "American Supplier" is toy company Hasbro. Today, Wal-Mart is the largest purchaser of Hasbro products-accounting for 21 percent of all Hasbro goods or more than $600 million in sales. But Hasbro reports, "We source production of substantially all of our toy products and certain of our game products through unrelated manufacturers in various Far East countries, principally China." Hasbro specifies that "the substantial majority of our toy products are manufactured in China."
Like almost everyone else, I occasionally shop at Wal-Mart. Sad to say, I see more Pocahontas County neighbors there than I do in Marlinton - the aisles of Wal-Mart have become Pocahontas County's new Main Street. Most likely we'll never again see Marlinton's streets packed on a Saturday, but if we don't start to limit the percentage of our income we spend in the Wal-Marts of the world, we'll continue to be "unindicted co-conspirators" in the crimes of shipping American jobs abroad - and destroying America's small towns.
November 26 was celebrated in parts of our country as "Small Business Saturday," to encourage folks to buy from independent businesses when they can. And there's a new group called the 3/50 Project, which asks people to spend at least $50 per month with independent local businesses. They say, "The 3/50 Project isn't an "all or nothing" campaign that insists consumers stop shopping in chains or franchises. Instead, our message is about balance--of the money you currently spend each month, we simply ask you to redirect an affordable $50 back to the locally owned independent businesses that have been forgotten of late.
Just as there are things in a locally owned store that you can't find in a big box, there are also things in a big box you can't find in a locally owned store. We simply need to think about where our dollars are best invested, consider the greater amount of revenue local businesses return to the community, then purchase accordingly. Otherwise, local economies suffer irreparable harm."
Have fun Christmas shopping - and please, make at least some of your purchases with local, independent businesses.
Lake Reed Road
Over and over, in the ongoing discussion about potential Marcellus shale drilling in Pocahontas County, I hear the following argument from those who have either already leased their mineral rights or who are in favor of allowing this industry to come into our county: The land and the mineral rights belong to the property owner, and any local restriction (assuming local government would have any real power to restrict, which seems increasingly unlikely) devalues an owner's property. Oddly, what I do not hear from these same people is the following: The practice of horizontal drilling does not respect property lines. So if neighbor A leases, and neighbors B, C and D, (up to 1/2 mile away) do not lease, neighbor A receives royalties on the gas extracted from neighbors B, C and D's minerals as well as their own. Does it not bother these property-rights conscious people that the gas company is stealing gas from under the other property owners? What exactly do their mineral rights mean at that point? Or do property rights only matter when it's your property, and the royalties are enough to make you look the other way on that little technical issue of theft?
In a similar vein, what if the drilling activities contaminate the local groundwater? It's not just property owner A who loses their well. Suddenly, B, C and D have water they can't drink, and houses they'll never be able to sell. I think it's time to see this for exactly what it is: Greed. Rumors of big money, fanned by the gas companies, encourage people to lease. Let me ask this: What do you do after the gas company has taken your best six acres for a well pad, turned it into an industrial site complete with leaky storage ponds of toxic waste, and ruined not just your well, but also those of neighbors B, C and D, who, by the way, aren't speaking with you anymore. Are you planning to take the money you made and retire somewhere? Where exactly might that be? (Oh, and did you account for having to write your house and land off as a loss?) Maybe somewhere peaceful, quiet, beautiful, with clean air and clean water? Remind you of any place?
Letters to the Editor
I would like to comment on Dolan Irvine's statement that assessed property value goes up in heavily drilled counties.
He chose his words carefully. He is not talking about property value in the sense of how much a person can sell his property for or even if he can sell it. He is talking about the taxes the county collects. There is a huge difference.
Here is what happens when properties are assessed for a tax value: the property begins with an assessed baseline.
When it's assessed again, some leases have been signed and improvements to the property have occurred. The unsuspecting owner has reinvested (in a new outbuilding perhaps) and property values go up. Let us assume he has not tried to refinance his mortgage or that his insurance company has found out he is now an industrial site and cancelled his policy or that he has tried to sell now that his mineral rights are gone.
After drilling begins, when it's assessed again, the land owner is taxed on his mineral rights and the tax goes up considerably. Note: The tax goes up. Not the value of the property for sale.
When it's assessed yet again, when owners have been advised by doctors to move their families away to motels, buy bottled water and use water from water buffaloes, homes are not selling. But their taxes go up.
Most homes are either not on the market or are on the market minus mineral rights which people aren't buying because homes in an industrial area are not sought after and homes without mineral rights are even less desirable.
Older wells may still be producing, albeit at a much reduced rate. Without sufficient sales data and if at the beginning the production volumes were high on the wells (remember the graphs both presenters showed us), taxes might still be at a high level long after the income is not. Later, what happens to the taxes is not clear but in my personal experience I have never seen a tax decrease. Even later, compressor stations and pipe lines have been built making the area more industrial, not rural. People have abandoned their property and lost their businesses. The temporary boom of outside riggers and truckers coming in has left and the area is even more economically depressed than before.
So... yes, tax assessed property values are the same or higher. That has nothing to do with the sale price, the value of the property on the home market, the mortgage market. The tax assessment value is based on other measures. And the owner, even if he can't live in his house or drink his water has to pay it.
Listen carefully to what people say. Then think about the information you really want.
I'm not from around here. I first visited Pocahontas County in 1989 and came back every chance I had, spending time exploring the forestry roads of the Monongahela, wandering the old cemeteries, learning to identify trees, wildflowers and birds, listening to the tales of old-timers long since passed away. In 1997, through lucky circumstance, I purchased land on Old Pike Road. In 2000, I built a home up there, where I now live full time and have started a business based on the wildcrafting of herbs and fruits into teas and jams.
But I'm certainly not from around here. I'm from the Mississippi River delta. I didn't choose to be born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1966. If I'd had my druthers, I'd have been born here, where my heart has found its place. But that's not how life works. We don't choose where we're born, but if we're lucky, we get to choose where we live. I, like so many others who have found their way to Pocahontas County and fallen head over heels in love with her, don't have the comfort of a family history on this soil that dates back to the Revolutionary War. But I do have something else. I know without a doubt why I'm here. I'm here because I want to be here. I've been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. Pocahontas is the place for me.
So it is with grave dismay that I have observed the grow-
ing incivility of the community discussion regarding hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale.
I've done a great deal of reading on the subject, and found compelling evidence in communities around the nation that short-term economic gains aren't just outweighed, but ultimately erased, by environmental devastation that can't be remediated. My purpose in writing isn't to convince you to agree with my conclusions about hydraulic fracturing; I suspect you've already drawn your own.
My purpose is to point out a few truths: 1. Everyone who lives here, whether born here or not, is entitled to an opinion on hydraulic fracturing, and any other matter effecting the health and wellbeing of the community. 2. Everyone who votes here, whether they've owned land for 200 years or 20 or they rent an apartment in town, has a constitutionally guaranteed right to an equal vote. 3. The strength of a democracy is rooted in the capacity of its members to listen to each other with respect, to compromise for the sake of a shared progress, and to accept the decision of the majority-one election at a time.
In the absence of trust, these truths are easily forgotten.
Absence of trust between whites and African-Americans was devastating to the Memphis of my youth. After Martin Luther King's death, those tiny sparks of shared destiny and common purpose that might have been kindled between the races had he lived, were instead inflamed into a towering inferno of hatred and fear. I don't think it's an overstatement to say that everyone in the city suffered as a result. Downtown Memphis was shuttered. The economy faltered as industries chose more amenable political and social environments. The blatant vitriol among community leaders and ceaseless pandering of elected officials to their locked-and-loaded constituencies stymied all efforts at cohesive planning. So much so that 40 years later Memphis remains a disparate, sprawling place, largely absent that sense of shared identity and vision that forms the backbone of our strongest communities.
What does Memphis in the 1970s have to do with Pocahontas County in 2011? I wouldn't have thought much, until I heard the "us and them" language of the last two Commission meetings. The ad hominem attacks had a subtext I recognized all too well: an utter lack of trust in the other person, the neighbor, the one who in this case likely shares the same skin color, but holds a different opinion on the economic benefits of Marcellus Shale drilling. The language made my blood run cold. Such language destroys; nothing good ever comes from such language.
Sure, such language may be sufficiently intimidating to convince those who are its recipients to stop voicing their opinions, to stop participating in the community, to be afraid to vote their conscience, to move away, to give up. Such a result might seem to be a victory for those who employ such language to achieve just those ends. But the collateral damage of such a victory is mighty large: the loss of participatory democracy and the community strength that it, and only it, makes possible.
I've seen what happens when destructive language is allowed to dominate and ultimately silence civil discourse. Hope fades as resentments build and progress eludes. What happened in Memphis doesn't have to happen here.
Dawn Baldwin Barrett
Letters to the Editor
Regarding hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the county's portion of Marcellus shale, battle lines have been drawn between those who want to ban or at least limit fracking as a public nuisance and threat to public health and safety, and large landowners and gas companies who believe the Commission has no legal authority to act on the issue at all. As this drama plays out in coming months it will be important to remember that the central issue for both sides is water - millions of gallons of water that would be used in the fracturing process - and water that all residents rely on to drink and conduct their daily lives.
Last week, the county commission held two special sessions on fracking issues. Fracking proponents say it poses no threat to groundwater because the Marcellus layer is thousands of feet below the level of water wells and it is, therefore, impossible for fracking fluid to contaminate drinking water. Opponents of fracking have several questions the gas industry should not be afraid to answer honestly and factually - if, indeed, fracking does not endanger water supplies. Such questions arise from each stage of the fracking process.
First, given that each horizontal well requires about five million gallons of water and each drilling pad will include at least six wells - and several drilling pads are typically clustered to form a drilling field, where will more than100,000,000 gallons of water come from to develop each gas field? The Greenbrier River flows with sufficiently high volume only during a few weeks of the year and there is no capability to store river water for future use. Will gas developers drill for water on the same land they plan to frack? Or, will they use truck convoys to bring water to gas drilling sites?
Second, the gas industry acknowledges that only about 20% of water used in fracking is ever recovered at the surface - and they do not claim to know where the other 80% goes. The water must go somewhere - and water moves around underground, especially when it is seeking to relieve unnatural pressure. How can the industry blithely assume that so long as toxic water, injected into solid rock at extremely high pressure, remains underground it is not a threat to drinking water?
Third, what safeguards will be taken to ensure that recovered fracking fluid - with all the additional toxic elements picked up while underground - will be safely impounded, treated and disposed of without endangering surface or ground water?
Fourth, given that fracking fluid is injected at pressures above 10,000 psi, and the steel casing will go through porous, structurally unsound limestone formations (karst), how will the industry guarantee that ruptures and massive underground spills of fracking fluid will not occur? To relieve heartburn regarding such inherent dangers, can the industry cite analogous industrial situations where sections of pipe under very high pressure successfully rely only on their structural integrity in unattended circumstances (e.g., underground) to prevent disaster? What engineering measures are taken to detect and quickly shut down such a rupture?
Finally, when a spill or blowout occurs which pollutes drinking water sources, on what protections will homeowners and others rely have to make them whole? Once a source of drinking water is screwed up, how do you unscrew it?
Until these and other obvious concerns about fracking can be addressed by the gas industry the county commission should ban fracking as a public nuisance - and let issues of local sovereignty be resolved in state and federal court.
How to prevent evil?
Prohibit a priori all activities which may result in bad outcome? No kitchen knives, no automobiles, no oil wells!
That not only handicaps society, but is fundamentally unjust. Many knives, axes and guns, and oil wells are operated with nothing but benefit to all. Give Government power to abridge rights "for the common good" and let History show you to the Gulag.
So, most evils the wisdom of Common Law does not try to prevent directly, but punishes, or compensates. No, punishment does not undo the damage, nor can compensation always make whole, but evil is deterred, and a reasonable compromise between the rights of the individual, and his protection, is achieved.
So with these good principles hallowed by centuries of Law, how do we still see the horrors of poisoned wells and gob piles crushing houses, etc., etc.? Perhaps we need stronger government to prevent these evils! A strong government to protect the little people! Was there not a country founded on that principle, called the Worker's and Peasant's Paradise?
Clearly that approach does not work well, either.
Here are the two places that the Free Common Law system fails:
1. The second-biggest evildoers in today's world are Corporations. They cannot be put in jail. Any penalties assessed against them are mere business expenses. The men who make the decisions which the corporations execute, and the people who own and profit from their activities are by law largely free of legal responsibility for their actions-that's the whole point of the corporation.
Government charters these beasts. If the Corporation as an institution were written out of Law, individuals in business, whether single or partners, would be personally responsible for their actions! Too simple?
2. Grandma has lived in her shack for 50 years. She puts a pail in her clear spring each morning, for water to make her tea. She praises God for the sparkling gift. She teaches her grandkids joy and reverence by showing them this crystal gift of God.
International Amalgamated Joe, Inc. LLC, Limited buys the farm up the holler, and opens a coal-pit there. One morning, Granny finds a nasty surprise in her pail.
She puts on her shoes, picks up her umbrella, and walks into Town, up the steps of the courthouse, and asks to see the Judge.
Her loss cannot be compensated in mere dollars. Will she drive home in Joe's Cadillac, owning his whole operation, while Joe and his ilk settle in at the jailhouse, realizing they had better not try that again? If we had a court system, and judges, who would make that happen, would we need to have a rat's nest of regulations and abridgments of property rights to prevent environmental damage?
I think not.
So, here is my prescription:
1. Remove the imbalance of power in our society created by the existence of two classes of persons: natural persons like you and me; and artificial, immortal, irresponsible persons (the corporations)
2. Require that Judges do justice.
Easy? No. Simple? Yes.
I am a "tree hugger." I am now the only living county resident to have donated a conservation easement to the Farm Land Protection Board (Emma Beard, now deceased, did also). I do not need to justify my bone fides for environmental protection.
So why vote no to this resolution?
First, the timing of it was wrong. The approach to the whole issue of Marcellus shale drilling has been ill-timed in that I and my fellow Commissioners reacted as if the sky were falling before gathering up all the facts. When everyone heard about the leases (40,000 acres in our county) and saw "Gas Land" and went to Wetzel County it did look as though the "end was near." Then I thought I should look at the geology, so I spoke at length with the geology departments at WVU and Marshall and was told what was recently published in The Pocahontas Times: Drilling here is unlikely due to factors of geology rendering the shale poor or marginal in gas quality, lack of adjacent infrastructure, economics of gas prices and the fact that there are other "fairways" far, far richer which have all the elements of critical mass in the western and northern part of the State. Now geology is not exact like mathematics and, perhaps, there could be pockets of shale gas of value, but from seeing Wetzel County, I understand that the phenomena requires huge supporting infrastructure and numerous wells to pay for that infrastructure; one or two wells can not economically stand alone.
When aiming in politics, I feel one needs to be sure of the target and use the right caliber for the purpose. In our case, the target turned out to be different and smaller and less threatening than first sighted from far away. The "zoning" ordinance was grossly unnecessary and I think unenforceable and, as seen, hugely antagonistic to elements in the community against land use restrictions. Following such a tidal wave of opposition with the resolution was politically inopportune, to say the least.
Here it is in a nutshell: For generations landowners have managed their property well, so well in fact, that all of us regularly swoon at the beauty of the farm and community landscape. Regulations of land use are seen as "offensive" to the good work and stewardship of owners. Seen as unnecessary and controlling. Seen as a class warfare, seen as conflicting values between newcomers and generational residents. The uneasiness of the love affair with Snowshoe reflects this d�tente. So why on earth follow up the donnybrook on Tuesday night with another round Thursday of something seen as telling people what to do? Especially, when no enemy was at the ramparts and the field, but for our missteps, lay quiet.
Yes, the county needs a statement. I am writing to all those who opposed the resolution asking them what positive statement they can make in support of clean water. Will that stop drilling? No. Will that help us find a common ground? Yes, perhaps.
I voted no because I had no other reasonable vote in view of the reality of all the facts: geology, law and politics.
There is a whole lot of consternation going on with those of us who did not lease [our mineral rights], worrying about the potential impacts of what might happen at the lands that are leased. Those of us who have visited actual [drilling] sites have much reason for being concerned.
Certainly, all of us have financial needs that the money from leasing lands, might ease. But that our water might be forever impacted by pollution or the taking of too much water to frack wells could have an incredibly high price tag for all neighbors.
For all those who don't believe in zoning, my mind says that those who signed leases have created their own zoning. The oil and gas industry is just that-an industrial activity-and now 19,000 acres of Little Levels area are now self-zoned industrial because of those who signed gas leases.
What will you do with this money if the area is forever changed? Try to find another like it? I have been told that you don't think it will happen here. Wrong thinking, because it could. If not today, then 50 or 100 years from now when the technology gets better and the price for gas is better.
We cannot live without water; we can find other sources of energy.
Water, water in the ground
Deep down can't be found
When it is
The living can't drink
It's full of taint
From thoughtless mans' haint.
Harsh words and thoughts from me, your neighbor, selfishly not wanting to live in an industrial area where they drill and have lights on for months at a time. Enjoying what is here now. Drinking pure water.
I offer no apologies for making you think about oil and gas leasing and the impact it has on everyone.
I hope and pray that I am wrong and you can call me a fool for not leasing.
Editor's Note: We received more letters on the topic of drilling for gas in the Marcellus shale. We ran the letters in the order in which they were received. The last two letters received after deadline will be run next week.
Letters to the Editor
I read the article in last week's paper named, "A Quiet Hero." It was a well-deserved recognition of a Veteran for his actions in Viet Nam.
You can see by the look in his face that he is proud of that recognition.
We Viet Nam Veterans were not recognized, thanked or welcomed back from Viet Nam.
Thank you, Mr. Ramsey, for your services.
This is not about Viet Nam, but about all of our Veterans or as you say "Quiet Heroes."
During this Veterans Day, the day that the War to end all Wars was ended, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, we must remember and thank all of our Veterans for their service.
When you walk down the street in our community, most likely you are walking past a "Quiet Hero." Verterans are a quiet bunch that keep the hardships and the sights of war to themselves, but are proud of their service, country and community.
I am proud that things have turned around and our Veterans today are being recognized for their service to the country, state and community.
It is you, the community, who make our veterans welcome and show pride for their service to this wonderful country. Organizations like the American Legion and the veterans of Foreign Wars, to name a few, should be recognized for their community action and support.
Lastly, you, too, are "Quiet Heroes."
Without our friends, neighors and the community as a whole, our veterans would not get the recognition they deserve.
Dennis M. Mynuk
First Sergeant, Ret.
I'm a member of the Pocahontas County Honor Corps; it is an honor to serve with such noble and dedicated men and women. Over the last couple of weeks, we have had the pleasure of presenting a program on the ethics of the American flag in all Pocahontas County schools except Hillsboro, which we will visit at a later date.
Oftentimes, we hear negative comments about our younger generation, but we shouldn't condemn the masses because of a few bad characters. We don't judge the populace because some run astray. I would like to commend all of the student bodies on the gracious manner in which we were received. They were polite, attentive and well-mannered.
I would like to highlight my time at two of the schools.
Marlinton Elementary: A hundred or more children sat in a circle on the gym floor, each head bobbing to and fro-a tiny sea of beautiful children caught in the spirit of the day. It was a wonderful sight, each child waving a tiny flag in jubilation. When they vocalized the song, dedicated to the American veterans, a tear filled my eye. I am so glad I was part of this occasion.
Green Bank Elementary/ Middle School: As the classes filled the bleachers, a constant chatter and rumbling was apparent. After everyone was seated, the principal raised his hand and a stillness came over the crowd, remaining throughout the presentation.
While facing the student body, several images caught my eye.
A tiny boy was sleeping on his teacher's shoulder. When his head nodded, she tenderly placed it back to its resting place. Worn from the hectic pace, he found comfort on the shoulder of a caring individual.
Another child sat with his elbow on his knee, his chin resting in the palm of his hand. Both shoes were untied and the laces twined like spaghetti on the floor around his feet-a typical Norman Rockwell exclusive.
Down the line, a small blonde-headed girl grappled for the hand of the young suitor beside her, eventually clasping it in a friendly embrace until the lad realized others were watching and abruptly withdrew his hand and placed it across his lap.
The age of innocence passes all too quickly.
When the Honor Corps stood and saluted during the playing of "Taps," a little fellow directly across from me, also rendered a salute. When his little arm grew tired, he used his other arm as a brace for the salute until the song ended. He couldn't have been more than six or eight years old, but this exhibition made my day.
Tom Brokaw once penned that I was part of the "greatest generation," but after looking upon these young faces, I believe the greatest generation is yet to come.
I would like to thank Ron Hall and his staff for the very moving Veteran's Day program last Wednesday. Most of all, I would like to thank the students of Marlinton Elementary School for their beautiful voices and innocence that brought a tear to my eye after many years of hiding them. A special thanks to the precious pre-school girl who walked in with her hand over her heart, never removing it until the program was over.
I spent 20 years in the Navy during a time in America when the military personnel were not welcomed home or treated with respect. I pray that our troops today never have to endure that.
During the program, the old feelings of camaraderie with my fellow vets and the pride of having served, returned.
Thank you again, students. You made all the long days, nights and months spent at sea and away from family and home, worth doing.
Editor's Note: The Pocahontas Times does not normally print "thank you notes" in letters to the editor; however, this letter is printed because of the exceptional nature of the gratitude from Mr. Arbogast, and from these students.