Frustration Mounts Over Dam Removal Project

29 July 2016

West Milford, W.Va (WDTV)-- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided an update on the dam removal project along the West Fork River Friday.

Meeting with the Clarksburg Water Board, officials said they are almost finished with the West Milford and Highland dams, while work on the Two Lick Dam continues.

Those leading the charge for the project say this was necessary to make the water cleaner, more accessible, and safe. Three people drowned in the Highland Dam in 2000.
Many West Milford residents, though, are frustrated with the results.

"I told them ten years ago, my dad told them ten years ago, 'if you take the river out, the road is going to fall,'" said Michael Petitto, a West Milford resident who lives next to what used to be the Highland Dam.

His warning to the Clarksburg Water Board came true. When the Highland Dam was removed earlier this year, water levels dropped, hydraulic pressure lifted part of Hide-A-Way road, and the road leading to his house caved in.

"We've been working with the land owner there," said Nick Millet, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We're actually finishing up a temporary road for him so that their family has access in and out of their property."

Petitto appreciates that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has accepted responsibility, but he says frustration in West Milford is at a new high.

"It was a total complete waste of money," says John Stenger, an vocal opponent of the project.

Carl Evans, the owner of Evans Service Center in West Milford, says his building is off its foundation.

"Hydraulic pressure has caused the bank to start slipping in and settling in, which has caused the foundation of my building to settle in," said Evans.

Millet says he has been in contact with Evans and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to rectify the problem.