Members of Trout Unlimited and The Highlands Conservancy took a good close look at highway officials' "preferred alternative" and didn't like what they found. The road would have had a significant impact on a couple of miles of Glady Fork, a minimal impact on Laurel Fork, a significant impact on a couple of miles of Dry Fork, a huge impact on the lower reaches of Seneca Creek, and devastating impacts on a handful of smaller native brook-trout streams.
White's Run, for example, would have been routed through an 8- by 8-foot concrete "box culvert" for a substantial portion of its length, effectively eliminating its fishery.
Opposition to the road built quickly. Opponents pointed out that construction of the Elkins-to-Bowden stretch had ruined one of the two springs that fed the Bowden Fish Hatchery - something that wasn't supposed to have happened.
Eventually, highways officials abandoned the "southern route" and went with an alternative that went northeast from Elkins to Parsons and eastward from there over Mount Storm and on toward Moorefield and Wardensville.
Some of the road has been built. The stretch from the eastern side of Mount Storm to Wardensville is complete, is a joy to drive, and was built without causing any major environmental problems.
Construction crews are currently working on the segment between Mount Storm and Thomas. According to the state Department of Highways' website, construction should begin in 2018 on a 13 1/2-mile segment between Kerens and Parsons, and in 2025 on the final 9-mile stretch between Parsons and Thomas.
Environmental planning for the Parsons-Thomas unit has been particularly dicey because the mountain to be traversed contains habitat for the endangered Northern Virginia flying squirrel.
Here's hoping engineers can find a route for the highway that not only preserves the squirrels, but also the integrity of any trout streams it might happen to cross.