NRCS: Richard Mine Project Lacks Design Funding

Morgantown Dominion Post
23 May 2011
By David Beard

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) told The Dominion Post that the Richard Mine acid mine drainage project on Deckers Creek is on hold for lack of funding.

Pam Yost, an NRCS agricultural economist working out of the Sabraton state office, said the federal Small Watershed program, administered by the NRCS, received no fiscal year 2011 funding.

The Dominion Post previously reported that Friends of Deckers Creek had hoped the construction of a mine drainage treatment plant — somewhere near where the mine drains into the creek outside Richard, no site has been chosen yet — would begin by 2015 and the plant begin operations by 2016. Yost said that timeline will have to be revised when future funding is determined.

“We’re in a real state of uncertainty about what we’re going to be able to do; we’re sort of on hold right now,” Yost said. They won’t close down or deauthorize the project, they’ll just wait and see.

Yost said NRCS has about $2.9 million to build a treatment facility, but no money for design. She expects that $2.9 million won’t be enough to build a facility. If design funding comes along and they get a design, they’ll get a better handle on construction costs.

“Richard Mine is going to be very complicated,” she said. NRCS has to hire out the design job; it doesn’t have the in-house expertise. “There’s a lot of uncertainty about Richard mine,” and a lot of good ideas on how to approach the job.

The late Sen. Robert C. Byrd had been instrumental in securing funds for the NRCS, Yost said. “We don’t have that anymore. We don’t know where that’s going to leave us.”

The Dominion Post sent questions to Rep. David McKinley and Sen. Joe Manchin, but neither was able to answer in time for this report.

If a facility is built, the state Department of Environmental Protection has committed to provide 80 percent of the operation and maintenance funds for 20 years. The city of Morgantown and Monongalia County have teamed to be the sponsoring local organization, meaning they will work together with the NRCS to secure sponsorship for the site and the remaining 20 percent of the operations and maintenance funds — a good-faith commitment with no financial pledge.

Yost said NRCS will continue dialog with Friends of Deckers Creek, the city and county about the project’s future.

“We’ve got to get through this issue of not having federal funding, not having a design, not having land,” she said. “We need to do some additional environmental planning.” The job may beyond the scope of the plan as it originated in 2000. “There are a lot of unknowns but we’re still going to work toward that.”

Martin Christ, water remediation director for Friends of Deckers Creek, was disappointed by the news.

“This news about the budget cuts is terrible,” he said. “It could delay the restoration of Deckers Creek for a very long time or stop it entirely. That’s bad for Morgantown, bad for community pride, bad for property values and bad for business.”