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American Rivers lists Blackwater on Top Ten List of Most Endangered Rivers in US

By Lydia Crawley, The Parsons Advocate

PARSONS, W.Va. — Environmental group American Rivers has listed the Blackwater River on its annual list of “America’s Most Endangered Rivers” for 2024.  The announcement made in mid April listed the main cause to be the construction of Corridor H.  

The Parsons Advocate reached out to Jacob Flatley, a Senior Transportation Information Specialist with the Public Relations Division of the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, about the issue. Flatley said after consulting with Director of the Technical Support Division Travis Long and Chief Engineer of Development Jason Foster, Flatley issued the following statement on the report, “There are two routes under evaluation for the Corridor H, Parsons to Davis, both of which intersect the North Fork of the Blackwater River. While no routes bypass the North Fork without veering into Maryland, alternatives for crossing the North Fork include mitigation efforts to minimize potential ancillary impacts on the stream,” Long and Foster stated.

Olivia Miller of the West Virginia Highland Conservancy and Matt Marcus of the Blackwater Bicycle Association discussed the issues surrounding the American Rivers report and the construction of Corridor H with the Parsons Advocate.  “Anyone can nominate a river to be a part of this report,” Miller said.  “Their goal is to amplify voices of local people and communities who are speaking up for a river anywhere in the United States.”

Miller said the report categorized the Blackwater as a river “at a crossroads” based on the WVDOH’s upcoming route determination.  “They call it a river at a crossroads that has a decision that would be made within the next year or two that would determine the fate of the river,” Miller said.  “And in this scenario, it is the construction of our ROPA of Corridor H.”

Marcus said that another environmental study is the result of federal regulatory pushback.  Marcus also said that the alternate route exploration was also a federal requirement.  “They are going to put out a draft environmental impact statement that’s the next step,” Marcus said. “They’ve had their Notice of Intent and that was to notify everyone, ‘Hey,we’re doing another environmental impact statement’ and I think one of the reasons for that…is that they were always required to study an alternate route and they never really did.  The federal government has always kind of bounced it back and said, ‘Hey, you need to study another route.’”

Marcus acknowledged the sentiment within the area that the project is being unnecessarily delayed by these studies. Marcus, who lives in Thomas, said he, like so many others, just wanted the project complete due to the noise and other issues connected to heavy tractor-trailer traffic.  Marcus said that he feels that it is not the GoNorth movement that has delayed the construction, but the State failing to meet federal obligations.  “Its not the GoNorth people that have delayed it,” Marcus said.  “Its the State.  They didn’t do what the federal government told them to do.”

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