The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 8, 2012

Raese built golf course without permits, Corps of Engineers claims

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MORGANTOWN —

"Designed to fit the lay of the land, Pikewood National has a natural look," its website proclaims. "In fact, the only earth that was disturbed in the making of this course was that used to build greens and tees, and the rest of the land is allowed to lie as God intended it."

But the corps says the waterfalls and ponds are not natural; they were created by rerouting waterways.

"I can only assume what they mean is they kept the natural forest around it, which they did," said Jon Coleman, a project manager in the corps' regulatory branch who has been investigating the work since mid-2009.

In all, the construction diverted, buried or otherwise disturbed nearly 2.3 miles of streams and about one-seventh of an acre of wetlands, Coleman said. Workers also built dams that disrupted Laurel Run, a tributary of Deckers Creek.

"The ponds and stuff, those are some of the big violations," Coleman said. Damming a waterway not only changes the quality of the water but has the potential to dry up downstream areas.

Reconstructing the damage is difficult, he added, because it occurred so long ago.

"It's like an autopsy," Coleman said, only with tools including historical maps and satellite imagery.

By law, Raese should have sought a permit to place dredge and fill material in waterways under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the same section mining companies use. As a quarry owner, Raese would be familiar with such permits.

There are two kinds of 404 permits, a nationwide or general permit typically used for projects that are smaller and have little environmental impact. Those permits are free, but analyzing the project and coming up with strategies to minimize harm typically takes 45 days, Coleman said.

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