If you’ve ever driven along the northern edge of Canaan Valley on your way to the Blackwater, or to many of the other putins in West Virginia, you’ve likely experienced mountaintop removal mining. The central Appalachian Mountains are incredibly rich with coal, and with this resource comes a long and destructive history of coal mining. And this destructive mining now threatens to damage two of America’s most iconic recreational rivers—The New and The Gauley.
But it’s the coal extracted from these hills that powers the United States. Nearly half of all the energy produced in the U.S. is generated by the burning of coal—in fact the White House and the Capital are powered by Congress’ own coal-burning Capital Power Plant in downtown D.C. Clearly there’s a demand, and unfortunately the supply is in the hills surrounding some of WV’s most classic rivers and creeks.
The technique of choice for extracting this coal is mountaintop removal. The miners blast the top of the mountain off with dynamite, collect the rock and extract the coal. As they work their way down, they leave a blasted rubble pile shell of the previous mountain and the debris that tumbles into the valleys below releases toxic chemicals into the streams. The Gauley Mountain project will cause extensive pollution of Rich Creek, a stream that flows into the Gauley River near the town of Swiss. The Gauley then flows into the New River immediately downstream of the New River Dries. The area that will be affected by the Gauley Mountain project is visible directly across the valley as you drive downhill, west from Fayetteville to the putin for the New River Dries.
The campaign to save Gauley Mountain is organized by iLoveMountains.org and locally by Father Roy Crist of the New River Episcopal Ministry in Ansted. You can sign a petition online to help protect this mountain community and river recreation area. There has been a strong outpouringof support among the paddling community, and your voice will make a difference!