Clarksburg Water Board to Look Over Details of Agreement Turning Over Dams to County

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The Clarksburg Water Board is set to consider a sales agreement that would turn the ownership of three dams along the West Fork River over to the Harrison County Commission.

The transfer of the Highland Dam, Two-Lick Dam and West Milford Dam to the county would be subject to the terms and conditions included in an agreement, according to an agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

The board is currently in an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to demolish the dams, an agreement that will transfer over to the commission if the ownership is moved.

Since the 2-1 vote to approve the board’s attorney to being drafting the agreement, the dams have been the subject of debate at the commission’s weekly meetings.

Proponents of keeping the dams —which includes all three commissioners and a vocal group known as the Guardians of the West Fork— hope the county will be able to save the dams for recreational and agricultural reasons.

“I’ve heard a lot of good reasons to keep the dams,” Commissioner Bernie Fazzini said. “It’s still an issue as far as I’m concerned.”

Those in favor of going forward with the demolition project –which includes representatives from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, some fisherman’s groups and a handful of concerned citizens–continue to stress the dangers of the Roller Effect which comes with the dams, the benefits of restoration to the diversity of fishing and the conservation of the endangered clubshell mussel.

At the commission’s last meeting, the discussion continued with a representative from Senator Shelly Moore Capito’s office in attendance.

In hopes of working with the state’s congressional delegation in order to put pressure on U.S. Fish and Wildlife to stop the project, forgive any outstanding funds the agency has used toward the project –which has been estimated at $400,000– and transfer remain funds toward demolition to renovations –which cannot be done according to the agency–the commission sent out a series of letters.

John Schmidt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife field supervisor was also in attendance Thursday and again laid out the benefits of the demolition project, emphasizing how small mouth, muskie and clubshell mussel populations would increase and how water levels would not decrease to unusable levels.

“I see now from John’s explanation, that there may be a benefit to taking the dams out,” Fazzini said. “But it’s the first one I’ve heard that I agree with.”

Capito’s representative said the senator had interest in the situation and would continue to learn more about it. She also suggested that perhaps an educational forum take place so that citizens could learn as much as they can from both sides of the issue.

Though still in favor of keeping the dams, Fazzini felt it was important that people hear what Schmidt and the agency has to say.

“If Harrison County residents want to keep those dams, they need to be fully informed and educated on what John said,” he explained. “John explained it a little better than what anyone else has, as far as I’m concerned.”

Even if the water board transfers ownership of the dams, it is still unclear what their fate will be at this point.

The board’s meeting is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday at 1001 South Chestnut Street.