By ANDREA LANNOM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two southern West Virginia delegates have introduced a bill seeking to study the possibility of lake development in the southern part of the state.
Delegates Ed Evans, D-McDowell, and Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, introduced House Bill 2953 Monday. It’s goal is to revitalize the economy in southern West Virginia.
The bill is currently pending before the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
If passed, the bill would establish the Southern West Virginia Lake Development Study Commission to determine whether constructing a lake in southern West Virginia is feasible and could generate economic benefits.
The commission would partner with the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research to conduct this study.
“The legislation is a way to spur economic development and job creation in Southern West Virginia and that’s been lacking for a long time,” Evans said in the news release. “We are not just looking at homes on a recreational lake. We want to see what commercial, industrial and recreational opportunities could be created if a large lake was constructed near highways with large tracts of land available for development.”
The legislation cited the Hatfield and McCoy Trail system in particular, saying it would be an ideal location for a large recreational lake that could create opportunities for further development in the area.
The bill said the proposal is worthy of study of state and federal governments to evaluate this type of development to provide different services including resort developments, housing and economic opportunities and possibly hydro-electric generation.
A news release from the Legislature said delegates have viewed Smith Mountain near Roanoke and similar large lakes could serve as a model for the design and development of the lake.
“This could be a chance to transform an area of the state that is in severe economic recession into a boom area,” Bates said in the release. “It could be a game changer from southern West Virginia and should at least be studied to see if it could work. Southern West Virginia has long had a legacy of powering America through coal. It is worthy to study whether we can add hydro-electric generation to our state’s energy portfolio.”
Bates said he was happy to join with Evans to find new ways to strengthen the economy.
“Raleigh County is the gateway to southern West Virginia,” he said. “Development of this size would transform the entire region. It could take an area of the state that is economically depressed and create a new future for the coalfields.
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