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Silt runoff pollutes Beaver Creek, group says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Beaver Creek, a popular fishing destination near Davis in Tucker County, has been polluted by silt running off a nearby Corridor H construction project, a nonprofit conservation group said.

Walter "Lon" Marshall, a carpenter who lives in Davis, has been monitoring water in the creek to help Friends of Blackwater, which is working to protect the region's environment.

"If we lose that trout stream, it will take food off of people's tables. We are highly dependent on tourism," Marshall said. "People come here because of things like the river, the ski resort and the parks around here. We want to improve on that. We don't want to see things go backwards.

"Our goal is to protect what we have and to try to make it even better. This town would dry up and go away if it were not for tourism. You don't want to destroy the thing that brought people here in the first place.

"Personally, I was for Corridor H. But I don't see the needed planning being done on the local level." Marshall said.

Judy Rodd, executive director of Friends of Blackwater, said the group is concerned about what the sediment running off the Corridor H project is doing to fish in Beaver Creek.

"The Department of Natural Resources stocks the river with trout, which would be killed by this level of sediment," Rodd said. "It is like a river turned to mud."

Rodd praised inspectors from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

"For now, the pollution has stopped. The river is not as bad as it was. DEP inspectors were out there and told J.F. Allen -- the construction company working on Corridor H along Route 94 -- to clean up their act," Rodd said. "But we are afraid it might happen again. We want regulators to keep being vigilant."

No one at J.F. Allen was available to comment on Friday, but an employee who answered the phone said they would be unlikely to talk about pollution and Beaver Creek in the future.

Based in Buckhannon, J.F. Allen also operates stone quarries near Elkins.

Rodd said the stream that was polluted is running off into Beaver Creek, which then feeds into the Blackwater River, just above Blackwater Falls State Park.

Marshall recently completed a report summarizing his measurements of water quality and pollution in the stream.

"Siltation is of great concern in any case," Marshall wrote in the report dated August 14. "But is especially worrying here because of the millions of dollars and decades of work by public and private organizations and individuals to restore the Blackwater River into one of the state's premier trout fisheries.

"These elevated turbidity measurements vastly exceed state ... water quality standards. The bottom of Beaver Creek is heavily embedded in silt. Remediation of this will be expensive and even with remediation, it will take years to flush the silt downstream where it will cause more problems in the Black Fork and Cheat River," Marshall wrote.

The J.F. Allen Company won its contract bid on July 19 for the Corridor H Project. Work on the 10 miles of four-lane highway, from Mount Storm to Davis, is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 30, 2014.

Carrie Bly, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, said Friday she could not get any immediate response from DOT leaders about the pollution problems along Beaver Creek.

"I suspect that the increase in sediment is most likely due to the heavy rains this summer," Bly said.

Marshall said he and other residents of Davis noticed the pollution of Beaver Creek just after it started.

"We saw our trout stream getting pummeled with silt. Then, two weeks later, Judy Rodd knocked on my door looking for people to monitor the acid discharges into the river related to previous mining."

Marshall said Beaver Creek, a designated trout stream, is not supposed to have any silt washing into it.

"Beaver Creek is much cleaner now because of reclamation efforts from DEP and Friends of Blackwater," he said.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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