Locals Fight Morgan Run Plan

Md. Firm Wants to Build in the Cheat Lake Area

The Dominion Post
February 5, 2004

by Evelyn Ryan

A Maryland firm is gambling that it can turn Morgans Run backwater into the newest prestige residential area along Cheat Lake.

But that gamble may not go far.

Groups that played an integral part in the development of nearby Cheat Lake Park and Trail, along the northeast shore of the lake, are filing protests.

Wednesday, they got the Monongalia County Commission to join them.

Kitty Lozier, with the League of Women Voters of Morgantown-Monongalia County, told commissioners that Sure Ventures LLC of McHenry, Md., wants to put 68, maybe 132 houses on the upper end of Morgans Run, along with 100 boat docks and a public launching ramp.

"It is our understanding that if more than 10 docks are allowed, the request must also go to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission," she said.

Cheat Lake is created by Allegheny Energy's Lake Lynn Hydropower dam, and FERC regulates hydropower facilities. The park and trail were developed as the result of FERC requirements. Morgans Run backwater is a finger off Cheat Lake at the park head.

Sure Ventures bought 116.4 acres along Morgans Run Road between Fletcher Chapel and the park entrance. The bulk of the land is on the northeast side of the road.

"The League is concerned that any development on Morgans Run be totally in concert with the recreation plan and not detract from or destroy the value that has been developed for the public at Cheat Lake Park and Trail," she said.

Several specific concerns about Morgans Run were mentioned: It is now a prime fishing area for the park, it is included in the recreation plan, it is in the no-wake zone, it's the possible location for a public swimming areas, and the access road is woefully inadequate.

Commissioners came up with an additional issue -- that area does not have public water or sewer service. Lozier said the developer proposes a package sewage treatment plant.

Commissioner Asel Kennedy noted that the water service to the park is a privately-owned water line that's not adequate to handle a larger demand. It runs from Pennsylvania.

Commissioner Bob Bell questioned whether the developer could put a package plant in at that site in light of environmental restrictions.

And a public boat launching area requires twice the number of parking spaces as a lot because room is needed to park trailers, he added.

Morgans Run Road drew particular comment. The narrow, sometimes one-lane road, bobs and weaves its way from W.Va. 857 to the backwater, then loops around to Pennsylvania. When the park was developed, residents along that road were concerned that park traffic would damage the surface.

Another objection to the project comes from Cheat Lake Environment and Recreation Association (CLEAR), a group of Cheat area residents.

Duane Nichols wrote in an e-mail that trees on the site are being cleared. He said plans apparently include a boat house, a commercial vendors building, toilet facilities and facilities to dispense gasoline in addition to a parking lot.

The three floating piers with 100 boat slips would require dredging 3,800 cubic yards of material from an area about 75 feet by 240 feet to be useful, he said.

Permits for the project were applied for in December.

"This backwater and the entire Cheat Lake in general are already at or near capacity in terms of number of marinas, number of boat slips, and number of boat users on weekends and holidays," he wrote.

As part of the recreation plan, Allegheny Energy built two public boat ramps -- one at Sunset Beach for powered boats; one at the park for kayaks, canoes and similar boats.

CLEAR also had a list of concerns:

* Dredging would disturb natural fish and aquatic habitat.

* Waste waters and sewer waters would increase pollution at the lake.

* This is where CLEAR has proposed a swimming beach.

* Increased boat and jet ski traffic would enter the lake not far from the park headquarters, interfering with the recreational activities.

* Increased traffic would lead to delays and unsafe conditions on Morgans Run Road.

* Limited staff means limited enforcement of boating laws.

* Boat traffic on Cheat Lake is so intense that former lake users won't return. Allegheny Energy has limited boat slips around the lake.

* Four marinas provide access directly to the lake as well as slips for 500 boats. Allegheny Energy leases out another 240 slips around the lake, and has a waiting list of people.

"CLEAR believes that the proposed Sure Ventures project in its present form with its proposed marina in the Morgan Run backwater, is incompatible with the existing 'recreation plan' for Cheat Lake," he wrote.

To make it happen, he said, the project would need to be modified to meet the exiting Cheat Lake "recreation plan" and Morgans Run Road would need to be upgraded.

LETTERS REGARDING the Morgans Run project need to be sent by Feb. 13 to Russell L. Bolyard, Alcon Planning and Consulting, 6 Canyon Road, Morgantown, WV 26508, and copied to Charles L. Simons, Allegheny Energy Supply Co. LLC, 4350 Northern Pike, Monroeville, PA 15145-2841 . At the top note: Morgans Run Marina, Request for installation of boat docks, Lake Lynn Hydro, FERC Project No. 2459.