For those who travel along Interstate 70 at the West Virginia-Pennsylvania state line, the single-lane traffic and orange traffic barrels’ recurrence is nothing new. This is the third year in a row that this particular stretch of road has been limited due to the Tunnel Ridge mining operations. In our communities, it is not uncommon to see road impacts due to mining -it is part of our lives here. However, what is not expected is the possibility of losing a well-loved and used lake due to mining.
Tunnel Ridge mine is moving closer and closer to Dutch Fork Lake, located in Washington County. Recently the mine has proposed a revision to add on over 5,300 acres of development mining under the feeder streams to Dutch Fork and Dutch Fork Lake itself. The purpose of development mining is to set up the panels for longwall, full-extraction mining. A permit application for longwall mining will almost assuredly follow.
This is potentially troublesome. We know what can happen when longwall mining goes under streams: look to past experience and our neighbors to the south in Greene County and what they experienced with Ryerson Station State Park. Southwestern Pennsylvania cannot afford to lose another great recreation spot.
This community has already fought to save Dutch Fork Lake once. In Fall 2004, Hurricane Ivan swept through, caused flooding, and washed out spillways and the dam’s stilling basin at Dutch Fork Lake. Shortly after the storm, the Department of Environmental Protection decided to drain the lake to protect all the downstream homes and businesses. Nonetheless, the community came together and fought for a multi-million dollar project to have the lake rebuilt and restored. Today this lake is used to boat, fish, and for other outdoor recreation. Longwall mining and the resulting subsidence-induced damage could have a devastating impact on these recreational uses and the aquatic life that call Dutch Fork Lake and its feeder streams home.
CCJ will be updating the community about this proposed mining and will be providing information sessions on how the community can protect Dutch Fork Lake and all of its feeder streams.