Plug Pulled on Plans for Drainage Plant
NRCS shifts money to another state project
Morgantown Dominion Post
14 August 2012
By David Beard
CHARLESTON — A plan to build an acid mine drainage treatment plant
for Richard Mine on Deckers Creek has been set aside, according to
Friends of Deckers Creek and the U.S. Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NRCS).
NRCS said Monday it has reallocated $2.9 million of federal Small
Watershed Program money intended to construct the plant to another
“There are no easy solutions to the Richard Mine problem,” said
Kevin Wickey, NRCS state conservationist, in an emailed statement.
“With no local sponsor, partial funding, and no way to complete
the project, NRCS reallocated the available funding to another
West Virginia project that could be completed within the legal and
practical limitations of Public Law 83-566,” the Watershed
Protection and Flood Prevention Act.
Martin Christ, water remediation director for Friends of Deckers
Creek (FODC), said in a release, “This is a tragedy. If the
Richard Mine acid mine drainage is not treated, Morgantown and
Morgan District of Monongalia County will always have a polluted
Wickey and another NRCS expert familiar with the project were
unavailable for further questioning. Christ said the city of
Morgantown had been willing to serve as local sponsor, but NRCS
deemed a proposed arrangement incompatible with the Watershed Act.
The Small Watershed Program, FODC said, does not allow NRCS to
operate and maintain water improvement projects. NRCS must have a
project agreement with a local partner — a government entity of
some kind — that would agree to operate and maintain any project.
FODC said the abandoned Richard Mine discharges into Deckers Creek
about two miles upstream from Morgantown city limits. Deckers
Creek is almost always clean upstream from the mine, but is
frequently red with precipitating iron and violates standards for
iron concentrations in the Morgantown area. Fish are abundant
above the mine, but not below.
The NRCS Deckers Creek reclamation project included the Richard
Mine and 12 other mine projects. NRCS completed projects at six
sites, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) completed projects on four sites. Of the
remaining three, the Richard Mine is the only major source of acid
NRCS previously said it had about $2.9 million to build a Richard
Mine treatment facility, but no money for design. And the $2.9
million wouldn’t be enough to build a facility. If design funding
came along and they got a design, they would have a better handle
on construction costs.
If the facility would be built, the DEP had committed to provide
80 percent of the operation and maintenance funds for 20 years.
Morgantown, as the sponsoring local organization, pledged to work
together with the NRCS to secure sponsorship for the site and the
remaining 20 percent of the operations and maintenance funds — a
goodfaith commitment with no financial pledge.
City Manager Terrence Moore said the city and the Morgantown
Utility Board made themselves available to assist in pursuing the
project. There were several challenges. For instance, the mine is
outside the city; but its pollution problem merits the interest of
the entire Morgantown area.
There were other challenges, Moore said: Permitting; costs 20
years down the road, which by law a current council may not oblige
a later council to pay, with regard to infrastructure and
management costs of that magnitude; and a $2 million match to the
federal funds, for which a source hasn’t been identified.
“It was a precarious situation in a number of respects,” Moore
said. One idea floated, which the NRCS rejected, was allowing FODC
to own the treatment plant.
NRCS said the Watershed Act precludes that because a government
entity has to be the local sponsor.
Responding to the collapse of the plan, Christ said he believes
the sponsorship issue could be solved with a little more
negotiation, because the city of Morgantown satisfies all the
criteria in the law for a local sponsor.
Not so, Wickey said. “There is a difference between being flexible
and breaking the law. The Small Watershed Act, not NRCS, sets
requirements for eligible local sponsors and their roles. 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.”
Christ said, “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.”
He told The Dominion Post, “We’re watching. We’re not going to
Moore said, “Hopefully the federal government will continue to
offer some level of attention” to resolving the Richard Mine