By Mannix Porterfield
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is agreeable to holding a sit-down with his environmental czar and The Resort at Glade Springs owner Jim Justice over a controversial directive to shore up a dam at the Beckley-area resort, a state senator living there said Tuesday.
Concerns heightened after Justice disclosed that the state Department of Environmental Protection is insisting that a dam at Glade Springs be elevated to avert the potential of massive flooding.
All day long, ever since the story broke, Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, said he has been “bombarded” with calls from residents concerned over the matter.
Green immediately got in touch and spoke personally with both Tomblin and DEP Secretary Randy Huffman and both are willing to meet with Justice and discuss what the senator predicted will led to “a reasonable resolution.”
No meeting was scheduled, but Green said he is confident one would occur soon.
Justice warned that making DEP-recommended repairs would take up two years at a cost of $9.2 million.
“My main objective is to try to facilitate the main stakeholders — DEP and Mr. Justice — to make sure we, first and foremost, come up with a safe and reasonable resolution,” Green said.
“Obviously, I don’t think building it (dam) 40 feet higher than now is reasonable. I don’t think that’s ultimately where we’re going to end up. I think there’s going to be less significant ways to fix this problem other than what was proposed in the paper today at a cost of $9 million. I just don’t think that’s realistic.”
Green said Tomblin is “very much aware of what’s going on and is very much willing” to summon all parties in to hammer out a compromise.
“Randy is the same way,” Green said.
“Obviously, he’s concerned with the safety and well-being of the people downstream. He thinks that there is obviously a resolution to this issue that’s not going to be as significant as what’s portrayed in the paper.”
In his former role as chairman of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee, the senator said he has always found Huffman to be “fair and reasonable,” and a DEP secretary who strove to “find the middle ground between issuing permits to protecting the land.”
Within recent years, when the Obama administration has waged its “war on coal,” Green said Huffman has been an advocate for West Virginia’s mining industry.
Green, who is a Glade Springs resident himself, said his first objective is public safety, which is why he wants a safe dam to prevent water from escaping over the spillway, actually the road.
Secondly, Green said, one must consider the economic impact of The Resort at Glade Springs, which offers three golf courses, a hotel and other amenities “that are first class for this part of West Virginia.”
“It’s an economic driver,” he said of the resort. “Many people are employed there.”
Shutting off the main entrance would impede the business flow into Glade Springs, putting residents at an inconvenience by diverting traffic onto Pluto Road, the senator said.
“It would be a mess,” he said.
“Glade Springs Resort is an important part of the Beckley area and southern West Virginia, and to close the entrance of the property for 24 months would have a detrimental effect on the resort.”
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