As Corridor H Takes Shape, Environmental Groups Urge Protection of Falls
Monday, August 8, 2022
West Virginia has received federal Infrastructure Bill funding to complete the Corridor H Highway, a four-lane route beginning in Tucker County and connecting with Interstate 81 in Strasburg, Virginia.
Some environmental groups and local residents argued the project's current route could disrupt wildlife habitat and local economies based on outdoor recreation and tourism.
Hugh Rogers, board member and chair of the highways committee for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, said small towns around Blackwater Falls would feel the impact from increased traffic and congestion.
"The people on the mountain who live in Thomas and Davis, they don't want a four-lane slamming right between their towns," Rogers emphasized. "And causing a whole different kind of development probably from the kind that has been very successful."
More than 120 miles of Corridor H is now open, with around 30 miles left to complete, according to the West Virginia Department of Transportation. The state maintains the project will open up remote areas in Grant, Tucker and Hardy counties to economic development and shorten travel times through the mountains.
But Rogers countered the outdoor tourism small businesses and residents have worked to build up around Blackwater Falls is at stake. He pointed out travelers come to the area to escape major development.
"And there's just all this opportunity for recreation," Rogers explained. "As you know, mountain biking is very big around here. Lots of hiking, of course. Rafting and kayaking on the river, it's just a wonderful playground"
He added nearly 2,000 residents have signed an online petition calling for the highway's path to be diverted from the Blackwater region to an alternate route.
"For years, people thought, we have to take whatever the Department of Highways gives us; we just 'want' the changes that it will bring," Rogers noted. "Now, more and more people are getting the idea that we don't have to settle for a lousy version of this."
Research from the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance shows the highway could potentially impact threatened and endangered species such as Cheat Mountain salamander, Indiana bat, Virginia big-eared bat and West Virginia flying squirrel.
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