Ground Truth: Dispatch

West Virginia Hydro Project Rejected

The Forest Service has rejected a proposal to build a $1.2 billion hydroelectric facility in the mountains of West Virginia, saying the project would harm rare species and degrade federally protected wetlands.

West Virginia’s Big Run Bog National Natural Landmark includes a type of sphagnum-red spruce bog that is usually found far to the north.

FreedomWorks LLC, based in Harpers Ferry, wants to build the project on the Monongahela National Forest, adjacent to the Big Run Bog National Natural Landmark. It would include two reservoirs, each more than 1,000 acres in size. Water would flow through pipes from an upper reservoir to a lower one, powering turbines. The facility would use wind-generated electricity to pump water from the lower reservoir back to the upper one.

Company officials say the facility would allow extra energy, generated by renewable sources, to be stored during periods of low use.

Late last year, company officials applied for a special-use permit to conduct preliminary studies, including exploratory drilling, to determine the project’s feasibility.

In a letter sent to federal energy officials earlier this month, Monongahela National Forest Supervisor Shawn Cochran said the exploratory work “would adversely affect the Big Run Bog National Natural Landmark.”

The 731-acre area, which is home to an abundance of rare plants and animals, is within the Monongahela National Forest but is administered by the National Park Service.

FreedomWorks CEO Tim Williamson told the Charleston Gazette-Mail newspaper that he has been in contact with the offices of West Virginia senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito to discuss his options.