By Wendy Holdren
According to a letter sent from Jim Justice to property owners at The Resort at Glade Springs, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) will order that the roadway around Mallard Lake and its dam be raised approximately 40 feet, which Justice said would cause the entrance road to be closed for 24 months and cost the Property Owners Association $9.2 million.
The road is near the front gate of the community.
The dam was inspected in 2008 by the WVDEP, according to Justice, but aside from tree and brush growth and a few technical adjustments to the trash racks and pipe entrances, he said no order was made for any substantial changes.
A few months after Justice purchased Glade in 2010, he said the WVDEP started to commence action to reclassify the dam to a Class I, which designates it as a “high hazard” dam.
According to the WVDEP website, a Class I High Hazard Dam is located where failure may cause loss of human life or major damage to dwelling, commercial or industrial buildings, main railroads, important public utilities, or where a high risk highway may be affected or damaged.
Justice said the WVDEP claims that if the area were to get 27.5 inches of rain in six hours and the water overtops the road, a vehicle could be in harm’s way.
“Please, if this ever occurs, don’t drive anywhere, just start walking for the highest mountain,” Justice said in the letter.
“Please don’t drive through water at Mallard Lake or any other locations. In fact, with this level of rainfall, a great amount of Glade Springs’ properties would be under water. In fact, many West Virginia cities would be washed away.”
According to the National Climate Data Center, during the entire months of May, June and July, Beckley received less than 14 inches of precipitation.
Although rainfalls of extreme amounts are rare, a few have been documented by the WVDEP, including one of the greatest observed point rainfalls on July 18, 1889, in Rockport, W.Va., with 19.5 inches of rain in two hours.
In his letter, Justice said Glade secured engineering opinions from two unidentified engineers, and their belief was that the WVDEP is inaccurate in its analysis.
“We also pointed out to WVDEP that there is currently in place a guard at the gatehouse 24 hours a day who could prevent utilization of the road in the unlikely event there was ever an ‘overtopping’ event,” Justice said.
“We have proposed a system of safety monitoring as well that would preclude road use in the event of a rare overtopping event. Unfortunately, at least to date, WVDEP has turned a deaf ear to the persuasive information and arguments we submitted.”
Justice said under the development documents, his firm could simply “pass the buck” and transfer the road, lake and dam to the Property Owners Association, “leaving it and the homeowners to the WVDEP’s mercy.”
“That is a choice of last resort for us, as we would prefer to advance our common interest and together convince WVDEP to abandon its current imprudent action.”
Justice said the WVDEP has threatened civil action in circuit court against Glade because corrective action has not yet been taken.
“As it looks at this time, the main entrance road will soon have to be closed. Your access to Glade Spring and your property will have to be through the back gate located on Pluto Road.”
A guard will be posted at the Pluto entrance 24 hours a day, according to Justice’s letter, and he also included directions to the alternate entrance.
He said this alternate entrance will cause residents an extra 30 minutes of travel and the extra traffic will cause congestion on Pluto Road, County Route 27.
“Surely there are thousands of roads, dams, tunnels, etc., in West Virginia that pose a real threat due to flooding in heavy rainfall events. It is without question many of these situations create a potential for loss of life. Yet, ironically, we, the state of West Virginia, choose to frivolously target a road where there has already been proposed by the land owner a real solution that would prevent the potential for loss of life even in the worst possible rainfall event you could have in the history of the world. The state has refused this proposal and continue to make unconscionable demands.”