Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Stream Buffer Zone Rule under Review: Act Now to Protect our Streams

Thanks to Kathy Selvage, Vice President of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, for bringing this important issue to our attention. Below is her explanation of why this issue is critically important to those who care about protecting our natural resources.

The Stream Buffer Zone Rule is a 1983 rule which prohibits coal mining activities from disturbing areas within a 100 ft. buffer of an intermittent or perennial stream. It states that coal mining activities cannot disturb these areas unless water quality and quantity will not be adversely impacted.

On August 24, 2007, the Administration proposed a change or clarification in the Stream Buffer Zone. Many people now fear the stream buffer zone rule will totally disappear leaving nothing to protect our stream beds and their headwaters from having mine waste dumped in them.

How important is water today? Just ask the city of Atlanta, Georgia. Given that the region is in a drought situation, our water resources, the health of the streams, and the health of the watersheds are vitally important to all of us.

Purity of water should recognize no political boundaries. We don’t often ask if one is a Democrat or Republican before we offer water. The quality of water and life in the watersheds can be embraced by all parties. It is too important for life itself to be merely contained in one party’s view.

We all must accept responsibility for the pollution and for the tremendous loss of streambeds already in Virginia. Between 1985-2001, 500 valley fills were permitted in the state of Virginia and 67.36 miles of streambeds were buried beneath those valley fills.

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS), a young environmental organization in Wise County, pursued numerous attempts to have a hearing granted in Southwest Virginia in Wise County to allow folks who care about their stream beds to express their opinion to their own government. Once again as in many other cases, the voices of the people were not granted permission to be heard as they were in WVA, KY, and TN. That request for a formal hearing was denied. SAMS did in the end accept an offer of a meeting on October 23rd in the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) offices in Big Stone Gap, VA (about 50 people attended) to express their views with the promise that voices would be recorded and placed in the record.

A small extension of time (30 days) has been added to allow the public to comment on the proposed rule change setting the cutoff date at November 23, 2007.

What can you do?

By mail, you may write to: Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), Administrative Record, Room 252 SIB, 1951 Constitution Ave., NW Washington, D.C. 20240. Please identify your comments by RIN 1029-AC04. Tell them of the importance of headwater streams, water resources, and tell them you don’t want them contaminated!

Write to your U.S. Representatives and Senators and ask them to demand that OSM enforce the current law.

Write to your U.S. Representative and ask him to cosponsor the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 2169). It is interesting to note that its introduction was promoted by a Democrat (Frank Pallone of NJ) and a Republican (Christopher Shays of Connecticut).

Write letters to editors to raise public awareness.

Turn off some lights, shower with your spouse, and hug your kids.

Consider speaking out, standing up, or engage others in meaningful conversation about the state of our environment, the importance of our watersheds, and the way forward. It is our collective future, the future of all the inhabitants of the Appalachian region, which is at stake.

Kathy R. Selvage
V-Pres. SAMS

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The City of Atlanta has caused my formerly valuable Buckhead property to be sold for 25% less because of 75' stream buffer setbacks. As well, the only place on 3.88 acres where a house can be built will require dozens of 120 year old hardwoods to be cut, and massive grading and retention walls. Way to go you stupid environmentalists. The tax base is reduced for Atlanta as well, and Atlanta doesn't have that many taxpayers compared to parasites.

The busybodies who grant variances can block a hearing without even visiting the property and they require detailed plans for the buyer's house. The seller has no idea what the buyer plans, and the buyers won't share that info because your property becomes 25% more valuable if you are granted a variance.