At its October 4 meeting, the Pocahontas County Commission addressed 911 and Emergency Management Director Mike O’Brien’s request to purchase, for $10,000, a .43-acre lot off of McCoy Road on Droop Mountain to use as a future 911 tower site. After clarifying that this site would provide enough room for the tower site and small, ancillary buildings, the commission voted to approve the purchase. O’Brien said his agency is still looking for grants or other funding to build the tower.
The commission approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Bank Observatory for a Power Density Waiver, which would allow the 911 Communication Tower at Bartow to exceed the usual Observatory quiet zone wattage restrictions for public safety reasons.
In other Emergency Management business, O’Brien was given authorization to hire Daniel Tuttle as a part-time 911 Dispatcher effective October 5.
As a result of recent legislation, the commission was able to close 16 estates which are three or more years old and no action had been taken to settle them. Proper notification was given July 6 that the estates would be administratively closed by the commission if no progress was made on them.
Dave Sharp, of Potesta and Associates, Inc., the engineering firm contracted by the commission to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed water and sewer system at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital (PMH) provided an update on the firm’s progress. Sharp said they are diligently working on the study, and recently did a one-day site visit to PMH and looked at the water tower and the wells. He said the 63,000-gallon water tower there is in good shape, but the problem with water delivery is that one of the two wells is in poor shape.
Sharp said the firm is attempting to determine the best way to deliver water to the site. He said the options are to drill a new well or tie into the Marlinton municipal water system. The problem with tying into Marlinton’s existing water and sewer systems is the terrain between the town and the PMH site makes it difficult to pipe water up to PMH or pump sewerage out to the town’s wastewater plant. He said they also need to evaluate the treatment plant in Marlinton to determine if it has the capacity to handle the added sewerage from Beard Heights.
Commissioner John Rebinski challenged Sharp for not making more progress on the feasibility study since it has been quite some time since Potesta was contracted to conduct it. Sharp apologized and promised to present the completed draft studies to the commission at its November 1 meeting.
During a brief discussion about the East Fork Tannery sewer hook-up, Rebinski said the commission will provide $25,000 in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds for the project, which requires some more environmental work.
The November 1 commission meeting will be held in the courtroom due to the fact that the commission room will be utilized for early voting.
Rebinski also remarked that ARP funds and or Opioid Settlement funds need to be spent to obtain a drug dog for local law enforcement to combat the drug issues in the county. Helmick added that the county commission will financially do whatever it takes to solve the drug problem.
At the end of the meeting, the commissioners called Terry Blake of the WV Public Service Commission (PSC) about problems with Frontier telephone service in the county. Blake said the PSC, Braxton County officials and angry citizens held a meeting with Frontier management July 28 and people presented their complaints about Frontier telephone service at the meeting, and aired their frustrations to Frontier. She said 85 people turned in official reports of service issues to Frontier, and Frontier is providing updates on what they are doing to fix them to the PSC on the 15th and 30th of each month.
The commission will reach out to Frontier and coordinate a similar public meeting with the PSC and Frontier for Pocahontas County residents.
In other matters:
Commission president Walt Helmick shared a letter he received from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection regarding the vegetation growing in the Greenbrier River.
The letter, dated August 30, 2022:
It was a pleasure to meet with you, Commissioner Groseclose and Mayor Felton yesterday in Marlinton. As you requested, this letter is to give you written documentation on the identification of the vegetation growing in the Greenbrier River above and below the Route 39 bridge in Marlinton.
The plant is American Water Willow (Justicia Americana). It is native to much of North America, ranging from New York south to Florida and west to Texas. Water willow is described in Flora of West Virginia (1973) as being “very common in most parts of the state.” It is an emergent aquatic plant that often grows along stream banks, on gravel bars, and in rocky riffles and shoals of creeks and rivers. Despite its common name, it is not a woody plant and not closely related to the willow trees. Water willow often provides shallow-water habitat for young fish.
After we met, I drove up to Clover Lick and Cass. There was a pretty large water willow colony in the river at the Clover Lick bridge. The habitat at Cass wasn’t quite as good (lacking a riffle area) but there was at least one smaller colony growing along a shallow rock bar across the river from the large parking lot at the railroad yard. I also observed water willow growing in open areas of Clover Lick Creek. As I mentioned in our meeting, water willow is a common species in many of our free-flowing streams in West Virginia.
Water willow spreads by its roots and by seeds, so it can form large colonies. I don’t doubt your observation that the colony has grown and spread significantly over the last 40-50 years. It is likely that the beds of vegetation do trap a small amount of sediment. Because water willow has fewer leaves, though, it would be less efficient at slowing water and accumulating sediment than other, more leafy types of submerged aquatic vegetation (such as hydrilla, elodea and coontail). While wading in the river, I noted that the riffle area at the Marlinton bridge is still very much dominated by cobble and pebbles, rather than sand and silt.
Since I’m not a hydrologist, I don’t have an informed judgment on whether the water willow would eventually increase Marlinton’s flooding risk. Other agencies, such as the U. S. Geological Survey and Army Corps of Engineers, can be consulted on flood control issues.
If you need any more information or further assistance, please feel free to contact me.
James P. Summers
Environmental Resource Analyst
cc: Jesse Groseclose, Pocahontas County Commission
Sam Felton, Mayor of Marlinton