Flood Trial Highlights

By The West Virginia Record | Apr 13, 2006

Flood Trial Highlights

March 14: In opening argument plaintiff attorney Scott Segal compared logging operations of Western Pocahontas Properties to a bathtub and Mullens to a drain. He said, "If you take too much where it is too steep and too close you are going to flood that little town and you are going to wash your garbage into that little town."

Western Pocahontas Properties attorney Richard Bolen said water would have rushed down if no tree had been cut. "This storm overwhelms everything else," he said.

Pocahontas Land Corporation attorney J. H. Mahaney displayed color radar images of the storm. "Land use doesn't matter," he said. "The land simply cannot hold any more."

March 21: Engineer John Morgan testified for plaintiffs that Pocahontas activities resulted in a 275 percent increase in peak flow.

March 22: Bolen asked Morgan if he knew his maps were completely wrong. Morgan had combined properties of Western Pocahontas Properties and Pocahontas Land Corporation, which share no common ownership.

March 23: Pocahontas Land Corporation and two other defendants settled out of the trial.

March 28: Mountaintop mining critic Jack Spadaro narrated a slide show of flood debris for plaintiffs. He said inspectors issued violation notices to Pioneer Fuel on Feb. 21 and June 26, 2001. He said both would contribute to flooding.

March 30: The defense displayed a magazine article with a photo of Sparado wearing a Stop Mountaintop Removal button. Spadaro said, "All I have ever advocated is better control and further enforcement of existing laws regarding mountaintop removal."

He said he tried to protect the public, "particularly since the Buffalo Creek disaster when 125 people died." The defense objected and Hutchison sustained.

April 4: Forestry professor Ray Hicks testified for the defense that Western Pocahontas Properties helped the forest grow. He said the company produced 2,400 board feet per acre in 1987, 3,200 in 1997, and 3,624 in 2005.

April 6: Hydrology professor Wade Nutter testified for the defense that Morgan misunderstood forest harvesting. Nutter said, "If he ever stood out in the forest when it rained he would not see anywhere near what he is suggesting is happening out here."

From Beckley Register-Herald articles by Audrey Stanton

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