Linwood quarry plans draw fire from interest groups
A local homeowners group and environmental group issued statements on the proposed re-opening and expansion of a limestone quarry near Linwood.
Waco Oil and Gas, Inc., is working out a deal with the State Rail Authority (SRA) to reopen a rail line between Spruce and Slaty Fork to carry the company's limestone to markets farther north. The deal hinges on approval of an economic stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The SRA requested more than $31 million of stimulus money, approximately $20 million of which is earmarked for upgrade of the rail line.
SRA executive director Cindy Butler said the SRA expects a decision on the stimulus funds this month.ﾠ
On January 25, Dale Leatherman, spokesperson for the Snowshoe Property Owners Association (SPOC), issued a statement in strong opposition to both the rail line and the quarry.
ﾓAll homeowners in this area should be opposed to anything that threatens the pristine nature and the critical tourism industry of Pocahontas County,ﾔ Leatherman wrote. ﾓThe application for federal stimulus money to restore the Central West Virginia Railroad is just such a threatﾗperhaps the most serious one this county has faced."
SPOC claims the proposed quarry and rail operation will harm the environment and economy of Pocahontas County.
ﾓJust when the Elk Headwaters Watershed Association is making progress on a comprehensive watershed plan for the county, weﾒre blind-sided by something that has the potential to fill the air with dust and noise from blasting; pollute theﾠ water in wells, springs and rivers; clog Route 219 with heavy trucks; and forever spoil the western view from Snowshoe Mountain Resort," the statement reads in part.
ﾓIf the natural beauty is destroyed,ﾠ no one will want to build a vacation or retirement home here," the statement continues. "The county would lose millions in property taxes and tourism-related jobs and income."
SPOC urges residents to contact their elected representatives and ask them to oppose the stimulus grant.
ﾓThe people who drafted this application were dazzled by the prospect of ﾑfree moneyﾒ from the federal government. They forgot that it is taxpayer moneyﾗour money.ﾠ Unless we want to see our own money used to destroy the heart of this county, we all need to contact our senators and other officials and ask them to stop this political boondoggle.ﾔ
Conservation group Eight Rivers Safe Development, Inc., issued a statement on February 2, declaring the project an unacceptable risk to the Upper Elk River, a popular trout fishing area.
"There are 12 known caves and two springs in the Mill Run valley where the Waco Quarry is located," the statement begins.ﾠ "Expanded operation of the quarry will result in a negative impact to these caves and springs either through direct impacts (destruction of the cave/spring) or indirect impacts (blasting/surface activities causing collapse or damage)."
Eight Rivers claims an expanded quarry will have great potential to harm the river, due to the free flow of water between the surface and innumerable subsurface voids.
"Any run-off from the quarry operations will directly enter the underground system even if local protection (silt fence, hay bales, diversion) is provided on the surface, the statement continues. "This will introduce contamination from surface activities directly and immediately into the karst ground water," the Eight Rivers statement said.
Eight Rivers cited a 2005 study by West Virginia University's Appalachian Hardwood Center that concluded that the greatest threat to the Upper Elk is increased siltation from development and other surface/soil disturbance activities.
"Siltation in a trout stream is bad - in a reproducing trout stream it is catastrophic," the statement reads.ﾠ "The silt not only impacts the adult trout by impairing their gill function, the silt will accumulate in the stream bed between gravels/cobbles - which is where the trout lay their eggs and spawn.ﾠ Any eggs that are successfully laid and fertilized will "suffocate" due to lack of free flowing water which brings dissolved oxygen/nutrients as the egg develops into fry."
"This threat is magnified on the Upper Elk due to the 'storage' potential of the the karst conduits.ﾠ Any contaminants - whether silt or chemical (fuel, hydraulic fluid, explosives residues, etc.) - become trapped and are 'stored' in the karst.ﾠ These contaminants will continue to flush out with each high water event (rainstorm, snow melt) - affecting the watershed long after the surface event that caused the siltation or chemical spill has occurred."
"The environmental setting of the Upper Elk - karst headwaters with reproducing trout - make it highly vulnerable to development and industrial activities.ﾠ We consider the risk of a incident having significant and irreversible impact on water quality (surface or groundwater) and the reproducing trout population of the Upper Elk by these proposed activities is high - and in our opinion not acceptable given the magnitude of the potential impact - loss of a reproducing trout fishery."