I was given this story……

It was in the ’60’s, in a small West Virginian town. An existing dam across the New River had been built for flood control with leftover WPA funds, forcing the creation of a large lake behind it. Part of the dam had been built for future power generation, but that part had not been finalized.

Appalachian Power wanted to put hydroelectric turbines in that dam.

The community below that dam, was trying to build tourism as its source of income. Responsible for that town’s revival were a group of WWII veterans and young men, known as the Hinton Jaycees.

A hearing was to be held before the state regulatory board, and a decision was to be handed down. With no opposition, the power company thought it would turn into a slam dunk. The Jaycees thought differently and the small town editor covered the meeting which discussed the upcoming regulatory board meeting. He mentioned they would attend the meeting.

The next day, the bank informed all participants that if anyone showed up for the meeting, the bank would call their loans…..The only one who they had no hold over was a back-woods preacher; no problem, they needed some opposition to give the hearing some legitimacy, What harm could some religious kook do?

The hearing progressed and the “focal point” of the regulators quickly became exactly what the power company meant by “run of river.”

The power company said that was hardly anything at all. It meant that if they didn’t need power, they filled the lake. if power was needed they released it. No big deal. Water level rise and fall all the time; every time it rained. Silly to let good jobs go over concern over something that occurs naturally. And they would not stop with this one dam. They wanted to build a series of dams down the river, all the way to Charleston. Doing so gave them the potential to supply much of the energy required of the growing Mid Atlantic area….. and there would be no pollution to boot……

The backwoods preacher was called to testify. Thinking it was over the power exec’s and their lawyers made a presentation of leaving the room. After the commotion was over, the preacher began to speak.

With him he said, were the past night’s data showing the release of Appalachian Power’s Radnor Virginia dam upriver. The data showed the rise of six to eight feet in as little as twenty minutes. Flood stage was set at fourteen feet. It did not take great imagination to realize that there could be no fishing below any dam releasing sporadic flows of such volume. For one, the fish would not survive such turbulence, and two, any fisherman, getting their foot caught in a crevasse (a rather common occurrence) while racing to beat the rising water, would also not survive. Secondly he brought a topographical map showing that the water level of one of the proposed dams, would cover a planned state lodge with forty feet of water. The board was amazed because the proposed dam was so far away from the site of the planned state park, but it was such a shallow rise, that indeed, the planned hotel would be under water……

The regulatory board looked at the release data provided (which incidentally the power company said they had no way of providing), and the topographical maps, and voted to kill the power project right then and there….

Had that project gone forward, and it was considered by all to be a slam dunk, (just as the Connectiv gas turbine here in Delaware was also once considered to be a slam dunk…) the New River Gorge National River, would never have come about. Instead we would see a series of lakes, stair stepping down the New River Gorge, all with “run of the river.”.

There is a lesson to be learned from this little tale……of a battle that took place against a power company “far, far away……”

You fight powerful power companies with facts.

They can’t run from facts.

Power Companies Wanted This Under Forty Feet of Water
This would have been under water had the deal gone through.

Sandstone Falls Might Have Been Hidden Underwater Forever

This landmark, Sandstone Falls, would have been buried underneath one of the dam’s lakes.

Grandview Park Would Have A View Not So Grand

This Grandview, would have appeared differently.

Bluestone Dam seperated into Flood Stage and Power Generation Segments

Below this dam in question, is the spot rated best fishing East of the Mississippi by many fishing magazines, primarily because of its constant stream flow, because there is no “run of river” at this location.

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