Jefferson Co. to give $17,500 in cash, services so watershed group can apply for grants

June 02, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — There are about 150 miles of roads — all of them private and many of them in deplorable shape — in the 24-square-mile Blue Ridge section of Jefferson County known as "The Mountain."

Members of the Blue Ridge Watershed Coalition, which represents the nearly 3,000 residents of the Blue Ridge Mountain communities, convinced the Jefferson County Commission Thursday to provide $17,500 in cash and in-kind services the coalition needs to meet two grant application deadlines that end today.

Rhonda Lehman, coalition chairwoman, and board member John Maxey brought the funding request before the commissioners.

One grant, for $42,000, would pay to inventory road and stormwater-management projects. The other, for $37,500, is for the development of a watershed improvement plan.

The Blue Ridge watershed feeds into the Chesapeake Bay via the Shenandoah River.

Watershed improvements would put the county in better standing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to clean up the bay, Maxey told the commissioners.

"It would make certain that Jefferson County receives full credit for reductions in sediment," he said. It would also make the Blue Ridge communities eligible for federal Clean Water Act funds and state green infrastructure funding, he said.

A long-term goal is the creation of a watershed-management plan that allows future development and improves drinking water quality in the Blue Ridge communities.

Also needed is an inventory of the mountain's current road system, the majority of which don't meet state Division of Highway standards, Maxey said.

They're called "orphan roads" because their maintenance is the responsibility of the property owners they serve. They were built to access the original vacation or seasonal homes that were built in the 1950s and 1960s. They evolved into permanent residences over the years.

Recent heavy rains devastated several main roads on the mountain. State highway crews brought in about 300 dumptruck loads of gravel to repair them, Maxey said.

"They just dump new gravel on them, and the next heavy rains will wash that away, too, sending even more sediment into the Chesapeake," Maxey told the commissioners.

The DOH has approved two "highly visible" road improvement projects that will show residents that some real progress is being made on their roads, he said.

"We need to prove to the residents that our problems can be solved," Maxey said.


"Those roads were never properly designed," County Commissioner Frances Morgan told Maxey and Lehman. She praised the coalition for taking things one step at a time.

"These are long-term projects," she said.

Most of the homes are in communities that cover about half of the 24-square-mile region, Maxey said.

Much of the rest lies within Harpers Ferry National Historical Park boundaries, another 1,400 acres is covered by the Rolling Ridge Foundation, and a similar-size tract belongs to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Management Area. The Appalachian Trail also has holdings on the mountain.

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