U.S. Water News Online
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State regulators have been inundated
with letters from farmers and other landowners who object to new
pollution restrictions on nearly 400 streams and rivers in West
The state Department of Environmental Protection has received more
than 4,100 letters, including more than 1,600 from landowners in
``I think a lot of people see the new regulations as another
intrusion by government in an area already inundated by the
government,'' said Robert Burns, executive director of the Tucker
County Development Authority.
Tucker County is home to large tracts of government-owned land,
including Monongahela National Forest, Canaan Valley National
Wildlife Refuge, Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley State
The DEP is finalizing a list of streams that would be protected under
an anti-degradation rule adopted by the Legislature in 2001. Such
streams are either clean enough to support brook trout populations or
determined through testing to be unpolluted enough to qualify for a
federal ``Tier 2.5'' designation, the second-highest rating.
Federal law requires the anti-degradation rule to keep streams and
rivers from becoming more polluted. West Virginia has had an
anti-degradation policy for nearly 20 years, but never adopted rules
to implement it.
State regulators have held 14 public hearings around West Virginia
since March to gather input on the rule.
``There have been some incredibly hostile audiences at some of these
meetings,'' said DEP spokesman Andy Gallagher, even though farmers
would be exempt ``if they use best management practices.''
He said the DEP is not ``asking anyone to fence off their streams
from livestock, or preventing anyone from increasing the size of
their herd. If you want to build a barn, go ahead.'
Burns said farmers are concerned because ``the best management
practices of farming aren't really defined, so people are still
uncertain about what kinds of activities might be limited.''
Conservation groups also have criticized the anti-degradation rule,
saying it is too lenient.
Trout Unlimited has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in
Huntington challenging the DEP's tentative stream list. The group
contends that an additional 950 miles of creeks and rivers flowing
through state parks, forests and wildlife management areas should be
Once the list is finalized, it will be turned over to the state
Environmental Quality Board for review, and then to the Legislature
for final approval.
``It could take two years to get to the final list,'' Gallagher
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