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Corridor H News
Squirrel Avoidance Alternatives
The Corridor H Citizens Advisory Group for the Blackwater area studies—a group established by the court-approved settlement agreement—met on September 4 to hear results of a recent survey for the endangered West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel. The news was they had found some. In fact, they had found more of the squirrels in the path of Corridor H than in any other area in the state. WVDOT's consultant quickly generated a map with bold brown and purple lines circling to the west of Tucker County High School and descending Backbone Mountain below US 219. The lines were labeled "SAA 1" and "SAA 2," the Squirrel Avoidance Alternatives. According to the consultant, studying the new sub-alignments and negotiating with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on impacts to the endangered species will further delay the draft environmental impact statement by six to nine months.
Blackwater Industrial Complex
In August, the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places reaffirmed that the BIC was eligible for the register on all four criteria: (a) significance to the economic and social development of the state and nation; (b) association with an important historical figure, i.e., Henry G. Davis; (c) embodiment of distinctive architecture and construction of a definable period; and (d) presence of important, intact archaeological remains. The Keeper agreed with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) that mining reclamation in the Coketon area had not destroyed the district's integrity. Thus, the Blackwater River corridor from Thomas to Hendricks retained its status as "4(f)" property that may not be impacted by federally-funded projects such as Corridor H. WVDOT and its consultant had put on a full-court press against the Keeper, the SHPO, and the Forest Service, hoping to find a hole in the historic district through which to run a highway. Monongahela National Forest was the owner of most of the property. Its staff archaeologist, Ruth Brinker, had retired after doing much of the research that justified the Keeper's recognition of the complex. Her successor, John Calabrese, resisted pressure to retreat and found support among his superiors on the Mon.
Battlefield Avoidance Alternatives
West of Parsons, where WVDOT is looking for a new route to avoid the Corricks Ford Battlefield and Shavers Fork River, the number of "alignments carried forward" has been reduced from six or seven to two, according to a separate submission to the SHPO. The two, labeled "C" and "DF" on the scorecards, cut across the National Forest's Laurel Run area, a prime wildlife habitat. At the Community Advisory Group meeting in Davis, WVDOT's consultant said the draft EIS on this section was nearly complete.
After a visit to Greenland Gap, Secretary of Transportation Fred VanKirk announced that WVDOT would make some design changes to minimize the corridor's impact. They included elimination of an exit at the mouth of the Gap, moderate sound walls, quieter pavement, and more attention to landscaping. Now WVDOT may go further. Consultants on preliminary engineering will be asked to look for a way to "push the alignment away from the Gap," according to Dave Clevenger of WVDOT's roadway design office.
On September 29, The Nature Conservancy, which owns a preserve at the heart of the Gap, recognized Debbie Kunkel for her tireless efforts to protect it.
No Continental One
Also in September, Secretary VanKirk announced that West Virginia would not go along with a proposal to make US 219 a four-lane international trade corridor from Canada to Miami. Part of "Continental One" would have overlapped Corridor H. The reasons for rejecting C-1 are the same as the reasons not to build C-H. Neither could pass a cost-benefit test. The existing highway from Davis to Bismarck, where a 16.5-mile section of C-H was just given the green light by the Federal Highway Administration,* had an average daily traffic (ADT) of 1600 vehicles ten years ago and projected daily traffic of 2600 ten years from now. Guidelines of the national association of state transportation officials require ADT to exceed 10,000 before a four-lane should be considered.
* Note: in announcing the federal approval of the Davis-Bismarck section, WVDOT conceded that there would be no funds available for final design or construction before 2004, if then.
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