Waco seeks to reopen Linwood quarry
A Glenville company wants to reopen a Linwood quarry, but only if the state reopens a rail line for the company to haul out its limestone rock.
Waco Oil and Gas, Inc. wants the West Virginia State Rail Authority (SRA) to reopen the 13-mile stretch of track between Spruce and Slaty Fork so it can transport rock to markets farther north.
Waco president Ike Morris said the company has discussed the issue with the SRA.
"I was trying to see how we could work together and I could ship rock on the state railroad," he said. "We'd like to be able to send it to Elkins, Philippi, Charleston and I'd hope we could ship it to Maryland."
Morris said he's been researching markets for the stone, which has extensive uses. Limestone is used in architecture, road building, cement making and several other applications.
"A lot of rock out of that quarry was used to build the road up to the ski resort," he noted. "Even computer chips use high-grade limestone."
The major obstacle to the Slaty Fork rail line is money.
Morris said the SRA is investigating funding options.
"They're trying to look at their budget," he said. "It's going to be where I have to help finance it, too. I've got to put up money."
SRA executive director Cindy Butler said Waco would be expected to put up about $8 million toward improving rail transloading facilities at Slaty Fork and Tygart Junction, in Barbour County.
In return, if funds become available, the agency would spend about $20 million to repair the rail line, according to Butler.
"We applied for some of the stimulus money," she said. "We asked for about $31 million, which was for both our South Branch and West Virginia Central with numerous projects on each.
"One of the projects that we had on the West Virginia Central, if we receive money from the federal government, would be, potentially, the line as far as Slaty Fork.
The 13-mile line has been dormant since 1994, when CSX stopped using it. The SRA purchased the tracks in 1997, thinking of future economic development.
"The state purchased the West Virginia Central for the whole point of saving the line and hopeful that, in the future, freight would come out of there again," Butler noted.
Due to the long period of nonuse, the route needs extensive repairs.
"The rail itself is in pretty good shape," Butler said. "It's a lot of other things. We would need to do a lot of ditching, a lot of stone, some culvert replacement and about 50 percent of the ties would have to be replaced."
Butler said the SRA would need a guaranteed amount of rail traffic to make its investment worthwhile, in addition to Waco's up-front financial commitment.
"We wouldn't just spend $20 million, whether it's federal money or state money without some commitment to a revenue source," she said. "I think we were talking about 10,000 car loads a year."
Morris said that kind of traffic would be hard to generate with just the limestone quarry.
"This rail has got to be used by a lot of things," he said. "It'd be hard to open it up for just stone."
Butler said there was potential for coal transport.
"It's still up in the air, but there had been some talk at one time about the possibility - if mines opened up through there - that we could have some coal potential there, too. We talked last year to a company that was just doing some feelers there to see if there was the potential but I think, with the current situation with coal, we haven't heard any more about that."
Morris said he would like to bring some jobs to Pocahontas County, but that it was a challenge doing business here.
"We've had a lot of problems up there," he said. "People fighting this or wanting this or that or the other. It's not easy doing business in Pocahontas County."
"People are awful protective of that area, but being protective is not always good, either," he added.
In 2002, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) denied Waco a permit to operate a quarry in the Huntersville area. The Surface Mine Board and Thirteenth Judicial Circuit upheld the DEP's decision.
The DEP reissued a water discharge permit for the Linwood quarry in June 2008.
Public notice of the permit request was printed in the April 27, 2008, edition of The Pocahontas Times.ﾠ
"The operation will discharge treated and storm water into Mill Run of and Big Spring Fork of the Elk River and is located 3.5 miles east of Slaty Fork, WV in Edray District of Pocahontas County," the notice stated.
"An anti-degradation review has been conducted. Tier 1 protection is afforded because effluent limitations ensure compliance with water quality criteria for all designated uses," the notice continued.
Butler said anyone interested in the rail reopening is welcome to attend public quarterly SRA board meetings. The next SRA board meeting will be held January 21 at 10:30 a.m. in Room 122 in Building 5 of the State Capitol Complex in Charleston.
"I don't think its going to be an unfriendly situation like people fear," she said.
"I've told anyone that has a concern that they're more than welcome to come to our public board meetings and discuss it with our board."
For more information, contact the SRA at (304)538-2306.