Endless Wall Trail in the New River Gorge, WV. Photo Ed Rehbein
Celebrate the New River Gorge National
Park and Preserve

Panel Discussion: Wednesday, January 12
4pm Eastern

Senator Capito and Community Partners Talk National Park Designation: Then, Now, and Future Plans

WV Rivers and Adventures on the Gorge, LLC, are co-hosting a digital panel discussion, “Senator Capito and Industry Leaders Talk National Park Designation: Then, Now, and Future Plans,” in celebration of the one-year anniversary of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve designation.

Headlining the event will be US Senator Shelley Moore Capito, along with representatives from the National Park Service, outdoor industry leaders, and state and regional tourism and economic development experts, plus remarks from community groups supporting sustainable use of the natural resources throughout the New River Gorge.

Invited panelists include:
  • Leslie Reynolds and Eve West, National Park Service
  • Danny Twilley, WVU Smith Outdoor Economic Collaborative
  • Roger Wilson, Adventures on the Gorge
  • Secretary Chelsea Ruby, West Virginia Department of Tourism
  • Angie Rosser, WV Rivers Coalition
  • Elizabeth Underwood, New River Conservancy
  • Ed Stierli, National Parks Conservation Association

Join the celebration on Wednesday, January 12 at 4pm via Facebook Live on both WV Rivers’ Facebook page or Adventures on the Gorge’s Facebook page. Questions will be solicited from the Facebook chat and asked of the panelists as time allows. Please join us in celebrating all the ways the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve impacts how we live, work, and play in West Virginia.
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Mountain Valley Pipeline Faces Legal Challenge to Water Permit in West Virginia

January 3, 2022| Morgan Caplan |Sierra Club

Charleston, WV — A new lawsuit filed today challenges West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) approval of a key water-quality permit for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. The lawsuit argues that WVDEP’s approval violates the Clean Water Act. 

The suit was filed by lawyers from Appalachian Mountain Advocates, on behalf of the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and Indian Creek Watershed Association. 

The West Virginia DEP has allowed construction of MVP to proceed despite widespread opposition, the threatening climate crisis, and environmental damage that continues to harm Appalachia’s streams. If completed, MVP would also exacerbate health and environmental degradation in communities, as well as continuing to spur more dependence on dirty fracked gas. 
 
This legal challenge adds to the mounting uncertainty over whether this project will ever be completed, following a legal challenge filed late last month to a key Virginia permit, and two additional pending cases at the Fourth Circuit challenging the pipeline’s Forest Service and Endangered Species Act approvals. 

“MVP has repeatedly violated environmental safeguards, clean water protections, and plain common sense in their construction of this fracked gas pipeline,” Sierra Club Senior Organizer Caroline Hansley said. “Thanks to the work of pipeline monitors on the ground, we know that MVP has proven it can’t build this unnecessary pipeline without devastating streams and rivers. This is just another fight in our books that we are ready to take on for the sake of environmental justice and a livable future for all.”

Peter Anderson, Virginia Policy Director for Appalachian Voices, said “We have long known that the Mountain Valley Pipeline cannot be built across the steep landscapes in West Virginia and Virginia in compliance with state and federal water protection laws. If state regulators will not prioritize the public interest, perhaps the courts will. The people relying on the precious natural resources of this region deserve better.”

Angie Rosser, Executive Director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said, “We cannot let this decision by WVDEP go unchecked while our waters and communities stand to pay the price. With the health of hundreds of our waterbodies at stake, we need the court to take a close look at why it’s evident that MVP has not and will not be able to meet Clean Water Act requirements.”


This article has been edited for length. Full story HERE
Workers are pictured at the construction site on Bent Mountain in Roanoke County. Heather Rousseau
The galactic core of the Milky Way over Watoga Lake. Photo by Jesse Thornton
Under the Milky Way: West Virginia’s
First Dark Sky Parks

January 6, 2022|John Dean |Highland Outdoors

On a warm summer night at Watoga State Park in 1966, my brother Ronnie and I laid on our backs, looking up wide-eyed at the unparalleled magnificence. I was 5 years old; Ronnie was 8. As we stared intently at the infinite expanse, we talked about how many lightning bugs each of us had caught just an hour earlier in Mom’s blue Mason jars. When the skies darkened, our words diminished until one of us whispered, “Aww, did you see that?” Ronnie and I watched in amazement for a shooting star, a streaking comet, or the Milky Way galaxy.

But most people aren’t as lucky. In the United States, more than 99% of the population lives under light-polluted skies. In North America, 80% of people can’t see the Milky Way—many will never see it in their lifetimes. “The artificial brightening of the night sky represents a profound alteration of a fundamental human experience—the opportunity for each person to view and ponder the night sky,” wrote Fabio Falchi and his colleagues in a 2016 study that published a world atlas of light pollution at night.

Light pollution, which describes the excessive or inappropriate use of artificial lights, is one of the most ubiquitous and profound ways humans have altered the environment. It affects not only our experience at night, but also human health, wildlife, and natural ecosystems. Light pollution can disrupt migratory patterns for birds and alter predator-prey interactions by blinding nocturnal hunters and exposing predators who rely on darkness to hide.Light pollution can also be fatal for insects and reptiles; millions of sea turtle hatchlings die each year because artificial lights guide them towards roads instead of the ocean.

The recognition of these impacts and the acknowledgement that night is a critical resource for all drove the Watoga State Park Foundation to preserve dark skies in West Virginia. Now, five decades after that summer night, the awe-inspiring dark sky my brother and I treasured will be protected for generations to come.

On October 18, 2021, Watoga State Park, along with nearby Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park and Calvin Price State Forest, became West Virginia’s first International Dark Sky Parks. These parks, which span 19,869 acres in Pocahontas County, are located in one of the darkest regions in the East. The designation was awarded by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), a nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that strives to protect the night skies from light pollution.
For decades, expansive night skies have drawn stargazers, astronomers, and photographers to Watoga. Jesse Thornton, a professional photographer who is known for his night shots featuring the Milky Way, was thrilled when the designation was officially announced. “We’re losing more of the night sky due to the encroachment of light pollution every year; it’s something I can see in my photography,” Thornton says. “Protecting dark areas like Watoga is becoming more important, not only for ecological reasons but for the increased interest in dark sky tourism for those of us who need to travel if we want to see the stars.”

Watoga is now one of 82 dark sky parks in the U.S. In addition to protecting the night sky from light pollution, the new designation helps raise awareness of these parks and dark skies as resources for residents and visitors from around the world.“West Virginia is in a unique position as one of the darkest places on the East Coast and the IDA designation will help to raise awareness of the issue with light pollution and maintain some of the night sky,” Thornton says. “I hope these efforts spearheaded by the Watoga Foundation catch on with other areas around the state.”

This article has been edited for length. Full story HERE


A kayaker leisurely paddles on a West Virginia flatwater trail. Photo Bill Currey
W.Va. flatwater trail commission set to
build connections
January 4, 2022| Amanda Larch |WV Explorer

Established a year ago, West Virginia’s flatwater trail commission is moving forward to connect resources for the state’s 14 water trails, including 88 miles of waterway being developed for paddling, kayaking, and fishing.

Commission president Bill Currey says the organization has been studying trail systems in other states and will now move forward at home, working to bring economic prosperity wherever trails are established. “The flatwater trail commission has been in operation one year, and we’ve been reasonably successful—because nobody had ever really identified how many flatwater trails there were,” Currey said.

Having found success with the Coal River Group, established to clean the Coal River, Currey was appointed in 2021 by Gov. Jim Justice to head the volunteer-based commission, which works in concert with the W.Va. Department of Natural Resources. “The commission is over all 14 water trails, and we’re over any trail that would be designated in addition to that. We’re not a rulemaking agency. Basically, we’re designated by the legislature to be an advocate for water trails and as a problem solver.”

With the new year comes new goals for the commission, including the development of funding through the legislature to provide more support and materials for the state’s water trails.

“All the states surrounding West Virginia have a highly sophisticated flatwater trail commission and budgets to fund that commission and promotional and advertising efforts ongoing to bring people to their flatwater trails throughout the region,” he said. “But we had none, so we’re in a rush to try to catch up and promote West Virginia flatwater rivers for the kayak business. It’s a tremendous opportunity to grow tourism for areas that desperately need a reason for tourists to come to their area.” Once the commission was formed, state water trails became eligible for recreation trail funding usually allocated to the construction of hiking and biking trails.

By promoting the trails to kayakers from across the country, visitors to the area increase, and flatwater trails serve one of the fastest-growing outdoor sports in the nation—kayaking.
The commission estimates that more than 1,500 paddlers are using the water trails every weekend in the summer months, and they expect the number to continue to grow.

This article has been edited for length. Full story HERE

Water rushes quickly down Marting Mountain Road in Cannelton, WV. Photo by Amanda Bicknell/ FEMA News
Despite years of devastating floods, state still hasn’t implemented plan to protect West Virginians


January 5, 2022| Emily Allen |Mountain State Spotlight

MCDOWELL COUNTY — Annetta Tiller is used to water in her yard and her basement; rain swelling the Tug River and its tributaries over their banks is a regular occurrence in McDowell County. But every three or four years, the water will get a little higher, and Tiller and her family will spend hours carrying their belongings out of their home in Bartley and into cars, later parked on top of hills out of the river’s reach.

But despite ongoing flooding in McDowell and throughout the state — including a flood five years ago in several other counties that killed two dozen West Virginians — state officials have failed to act on most of the recommendations from a nearly 20-year-old state flood protection plan.

The result has been state officials scrambling to react after flooding events, and a statewide failure to take proactive steps to protect West Virginians from the reality of more frequent, intense storms in a warming climate.

In 2004, it was already clear that West Virginia had a flooding problem. That year, several state agencies dealing with flood response and planning came together to write a 365-page report: It was a roadmap on how to mitigate flooding damage and create more resilient West Virginia communities, and included a list of policy recommendations for state lawmakers. “The need for a proactive plan is driven by the value of the lives, property, and resources at risk in the State’s floodplains weighed against the catastrophic and destructive forces of anticipated future flooding,” plan writers noted.

But by 2016, when that catastrophic and destructive future flooding happened, there had never been a comprehensive statewide effort to implement its recommendations. That year, 23 people died from a widespread flooding event, mostly throughout the state’s southern counties like Nicholas, Kanawha and Fayette.

There was a flurry of activity the following year, including a new law to create a state resiliency office for flooding response and prevention. Lawmakers also formed a committee to receive recommendations for new laws from the office, and an advisory board to oversee the office. 
But the office wasn’t operational until last year, and didn’t have any state funding until the summer of 2020.

One of the few solutions that have been offered to McDowell County comes from the federal government, but the only homes that are eligible are those that were affected by a flood from more than 40 years ago. 

After the notorious flood of 1977 that resulted in water up to 25 feet high along some Tug Fork communities, it took Congress 20 years to authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to help clear and raise buildings that the water had reached. Even then, the Army Corps of Engineers had its hands tied because no one could pay for the work until 2018, when Congress agreed to appropriate $20 million to the county for the 1977 project. So ultimately, homes hit by flooding in 1977 had to wait 41 years for help.

In Bartley, Annetta Tiller says family, friends and neighbors are living in homes that are impacted almost every year by flooding but weren’t eligible for assistance from the Army Corps because the damage happened after 1977. She and her neighbors wonder why more hasn’t been done, even quicker fixes like dredging or infrastructure repairs like those to a faulty bridge in the community that gets worn down every year with new flooding.

This article has been edited for length. Full story HERE
FEATURE ARTICLE ~ 20 Minute Read
The Venture Global Calcasieu Pass export terminal, under construction in Cameron Parish.
A Terminal Situation

AMERICAN FRACKING COMPANIES ARE DESPERATE TO EXPORT THEIR GAS TO OVERSEAS MARKETS. IF THEY SUCCEED, MAINTAINING A LIVABLE CLIMATE WILL BE MORE DIFFICULT THAN EVER.

Story by Antonia Juhasz
Photo by Julie Dermansky

Lake Charles is a small city of some 80,000 people located in the southwest corner of Louisiana, not far from the Texas border. On the surface, it might seem tailor-made for a massive new build-out of industrail facilitiess designed to export fossil gas. There's plenty of gas produced in the region, there's a well-developed network of pipelines to deliver the fuel from fracking fields father away, and the Gulf of Mexico is just 35 miles due south, offering a portal to overseas markets. Lake Charles is also siturated in the heart of Trump country, and local and state governments have long been committed to the fossil fuel industry. Incidients of local resistance to fossil fuel and chemical corporations have been few and far between, and resolutely squashed. Today, no national environmental groups have a presence in Lake Charles, where nearly half the residents are Black.

In announcing plans for liquefied natural gas (LNG) "center of excellence" in Lake Charles last March, Mayor Nic Hunter, a Republican, said "The growth of Southwest Louisiana's LNG industrial complex has put our region on the map and gained us a seat at the global table in recent years." George Swift, present and CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, the leading business network in the Lake Cahrles area, predicts that " Louisiana could be the LNG export capital of the world. "

So it must come as quite an unwelcome shock to a who's who of large energy companies when local resident Roishetta Ozane started showing up to put a kink in their plans - viturally a lone voice against the LNG build-out. "My mission is to ensure that Southwest Louisiana, specifically Lake Charles and the surrounding areas, aren't made into a climate sacrifice zone."

Ozane is 37, with round cheeks, warm brown eyes, and an easy laugh. She grew up in Ruleville, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, and her early life was haped by poverty. But it was also sculpted by powerful Black women. Civil rights movement stalwar Fannie Lou Hamer is a local icon. Ozane's grandmother led community efforts to introduce Head Start, her aunt was a longtime civic leader who was elected mayor, and her single parent mother overcame a host of adversities to care for her family, eventually moving them to Lake Charles.

Ozane's life has also been transformed by hurricanes. After Hurricane Katrina smashed through Louisiana in 2005, many evacuees who fled to Laek Chalres sheltered at the Harrah's casino where Ozane worked. When she found herself coordinating relief services, she dicsover her calling. "I felt like I now knew what I was suppoed to be doing," she says. "Helping people, organizing." Soon enough, Ozane needed support herself. Hurricane Rita struck the region just one month laster, and Lake Charles was in the eye of the storm. Ozane and her family lost everything. She eventurally rebuilt and crafted a career serving others as a health worker, a teacher, and a community advocate.

[Last February] Ozane began work as a local community organizer for the Louisiana nonprofit Healthy Gulf. In August, she was hired for a similar role with the Anthropocene Alliance - a national network of frontline activists confronting environmental and climate injustice. She is determined to root out the cause of the climate chaos swirling around her - namely, the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. "These '100 year' storms keep happening, and they're only going to get worse if we continue to let these industries come in here and build all around us," Ozane warns.

More than two dozen fossil fuel and petrochemical companies already operate in Lake Charles, including seven of Louisiana's top 50 polluters. Both national and local commentators are quick to draw the links between extreme weather events and worsening climate change. But observers far less often, and certainly no frequently enough for Ozane, call attention to the poisonous environment wrought by the companies that cause it.

Continue to full article HERE

COORDINATORS CORNER

Happy New Year 2022! 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their warm welcome and support! 

Speaking of warm.. it hasn't been very warm here in our Greenbrier River Watershed recently, it's been pretty cold with lots of ice on the river! So this presents a time to stay inside and do some planning for the coming year. We have lots of things in the works, so stay tuned to our newsletter for ongoing news and events.

  • We are thrilled to have recently received a mini-grant from the Pyles & Turner Foundation in Lewisburg to cover the cost of a new laptop computer. 
  • We will be meeting soon at the White Sulphur Springs Fish Hatchery to draft a plan to restore some Green Floater Mussels in the Greenbrier River Watershed. More information will be coming soon.
  • We will have a booth at the Capitol on E-Day, January 20th.
  • West Virginia recently gained it's first officially designated "Dark Sky Park" at Watoga State Park. The Greenbrier River lies adjacent to Watoga State Park and the whole area of the watershed lies in the darkest region in the Mid-Atlantic states.
  • We will continue to monitor the challenges the Mountain Valley pipeline presents to our watershed and will keep you informed.
  • We will continue to encourage dialogue with towns and local water treatment sources to ensure clean and continual water to homes.

Finally, thank you very much for the membership donations that have come in recently. We rely on these donations to do our work and sincerely appreciate it!

Louanne Fatora, Coordinator
National Green Infrastructure Certification Training
January 11- February 10, 2022
Tuesday & Thursday mornings
8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Online via ZOOM
Application & Class Fees $185
Testing & Certification Fees $150

About Green Infrastructure
Stormwater management practices that protect, restore, or mimic the natural water cycle are  referred to as green infrastructure (GI). It is a collection of engineered systems that utilize natural or “green” approaches to manage stormwater locally. Stormwater is stored temporarily at or near where it falls to be used by trees and vegetation, stored and used later for irrigation, or    allowed to soak into the ground through layers of soil, which remove pollutants from the stormwater through natural processes.

About the program
The National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP) provides the base-level skill set needed for entry-level workers to properly construct, inspect and maintain green stormwater infrastructure (GI). Designed to meet international best practice standards, NGICP is a tool that can be used to meet a wide range of needs, including professional development for existing GI professionals and as part of a larger workforce development to provide candidates with the technical skills necessary to enter the green workforce and earn a livable wage.

** Financial assistance may be available for qualifying individuals.
Contact Dennis Burns dburns@wvca.us **
Register at:

Join us at E-Day at the State Capitol on January 20! We are looking forward to seeing everyone face-to-face this year! 

Where: State Capitol Building
When: Thursday, January 20, 2022. 9:00AM – 2:00PM. 
What: Environmental advocacy groups from across the state will participate in the West Virginia Environmental Council’s annual E-Day on Thursday. More details to come!
FERC Monthly Virtual Open Meeting
January 20, 2022
Virtual Open Meeting (Free Webcast available best viewed using Microsoft Edge)
Commission meeting held in Commission Meeting Room (Room 2C) at FERC Headquarters, 888 First St. N.E., Washington, D.C. 20426
free live webcast is available for this meeting from 10:00 am - 11:00 am. All webcasts are archived for 3 months. Full info HERE 

Volunteer
Make your time count by volunteering with your favorite non-profit to do any number of things from helping with river cleanups, to monitoring rivers and creeks, to making phone calls or licking envelopes. You make a difference.

Follow these pages 
WV Rivers ~ WV Rivers is the statewide voice for water-based recreation and clean, drinkable, swim-able, and fishable rivers and streams-from the headwaters to wherever water flows in West Virginia. 
New River Conservancy ~ Protecting the water, woodlands and wildlife of the New River Watershed. River Clean Ups
Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance ~ Protecting the heritage, resources and economy of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge region.
WV Environmental Council ~ Facilitate communication and cooperation among citizens in promoting environmental protection in West Virginia, to assist in organizing grass roots groups, to facilitate interaction among established environmental organizations, and to correspond with all appropriate local, state, and federal agencies involved in the management of West Virginia's environment. 
Wild Virginia ~ Along with our partners, alliances, and citizens like you, we press on in the fight against fracked gas pipelines in our region. The Mountain Valley Pipeline poses a great risk to our forests and surrounding communities. We are also working to improve habitat connectivity for wildlife throughout Virginia and to ensure that all of our waterways are fully protected in accordance with the law.
Stop the Money Pipeline ~ If we can stop the flow of money, we can stop the flow of oil. In early 2020, thirty-two organizations came together to form the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition. We stand on the shoulders of years of movement work pressuring financial institutions to act on climate.
FIND AREA RIVER GAUGES AND FLOW CHARTS @
If you appreciate the work we are doing, please consider a donation today.
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