Morgantown Area to Lose $3 Million for Richard Mine

13 August 2012

MORGANTOWN - The Morgantown area is losing $3 million that would have been used to support construction of an acid mine drainage (AMD) treatment project for the Richard mine, according to a news release from Friends of Deckers Creek.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is allocating the funds to a different project, because it had no local government agency to partner with, officials said.

NRCS is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and between 2004 and 2008 it received funds to restore water quality in Deckers Creek through the Small Watershed Program, which is established by Public Law 83-566.

The Deckers Creek project included the Richard mine and twelve other mine reclamation projects that make up the overall watershed project. Officials said NRCS completed projects that improved water quality on six sites, and the WVDEP completed projects on four sites.

The Richard mine is the only major source of AMD of the remaining three sites, according to the news release.

The City of Morgantown was willing to serve as the local sponsor, but the NRCS rejected the city's proposal because it did not find the proposal to be in line with Public Law 83-566, which the NRCS believes would require the city to remain the owner of the treatment plant, according to the news release.

"This is a tragedy," said Martin Christ, Water Remediation Director for FODC. "If the Richard mine AMD is not treated, Morgantown and Morgan District of Monongalia County will always have a polluted corridor. The NRCS money was the anchor that brought in the other resources, including the commitment by WVDEP and the willingness of the City of Morgantown to finish the job. Without the NRCS money, we do not see a way to make Deckers Creek fishable, swimmable, and economically productive."

Christ said the sponsorship issue could be resolved with a little more negotiation, because the city of Morgantown satisfies all the criteria in the law for a local sponsor.

Kevin Wickey, WV NRCS State Conservationist released the following statement on the matter Monday:

"Public Law 83-566, the Small Watershed Act, not NRCS sets requirements for eligible local sponsors and their roles. There are no easy solutions to the Richard Mine problem. With no local sponsor, partial funding, and no way to complete the project, NRCS reallocated the available funding to another W.Va. project that could be completed within the legal and practical limitations of PL83-566. I regret that NRCS was not able to be part of the solution for the Richard Mine Site. We have every reason for wanting a successful outcome for this project."