Now is the time for Tucker Countians to protect our home and influence the route Corridor H will travel from Parsons to Davis. The project is on an accelerated fast-track and there is no time to spare if the community is to exercise self-determination, protect its character, and guide its future.
A fifty- year history leads us to this point. The Corridor is to provide economic opportunities via access to an inland port in Virginia. The mountainous terrain and sensitive environment, together with historical and cultural elements, contributed to frustrating Corridor design and completion.
Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) were completed in the 1970’s. The project then languished. In the 1990’s a Supplemental EIS was completed. A decade of debate and legal action then ensued resulting in changes to large portions of the proposed route providing more protection to historical and environmentally significant areas. No agreement was reached on the alignment of the route between Parsons and Davis. If the West Virginia Department of Highways (DOH) continued to advance its route approach through the Blackwater Canyon, litigation could recommence.
DOH persists. Until recently, the DOH plan had been that “design” of the Parsons to Davis section was to commence in fall 2025 with construction starting in 2031. Recently, DOH announced that the “final design” of the Parsons to Davis route is beginning in 2023 with construction starting in 2024.
Plainly, DOH is bent upon crossing the Canyon. The detrimental impact of this is multi-faceted. The route bisects Thomas and Davis and will harm their character and growing economies. The Blackwater Industrial Complex, including the coke ovens and railroad structures vital to the coal and timber industries in the 1900’s, has major historical value that will be undermined. Gorgeous views from Blackwater State Park and other areas will be destroyed. The Park alone brings in more than $1 million from visitors to the area. It is shortsighted to design a route with negative impacts to the Park.
The Canyon route with its piers and elevated roadways will cross rivers and creeks, be built on unstable reclaimed mine soil, may impact a maze of old mine workings potentially resulting in additional acid mine drainage, disturb some eleven acres of wetlands, and detrimentally affect local historical and cultural resources. It does not have to be that way. We do not have to accept the decrees of Charleston and Washington. There are better and less destructive ways to complete the Parsons to Davis section.
We need to get educated and influence the other design options that avoid the Canyon, avoid cannibalizing the communities of Davis and Thomas, and protect our natural resources. Other options take a northern route. We must make every effort to have DOH select an alternative route preserving our community resources. We have the right to influence reasonable design change and accomplish the completion of this significant Corridor section while also protecting our environment, our communities, and our heritage.
Deborah L. McHenry
Canaan Valley, WV