CLARKSBURG – A farmer sued the Clarksburg Water Board after he claims its dam demolition project will cause irreparable damage to fencing rights and other riparian property rights.
John Stenger is a land owner in Harrison County who owns property along the deep water pools behind the West Milford and Highland dams, according to a complaint filed March 22 in Harrison Circuit Court.
The defendant is seeking to drain deep water pools on the West Fork River behind the West Milford and Highland dams by demolishing the dams, according to the suit.
Stenger claims such action will irreparably damage his fencing rights and other riparian property rights through the ownership of the land adjoining the West Fork River upstream of the dams.
The defendant’s actions will also constitute a violation of state law by interference with West Virginia fencing laws regarding the designation of certain rivers as lawful fence, according to the suit.
Stenger claims that such actions against his riparian rights constitute an illegal taking prohibited by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Plaintiff lacks an adequate remedy at law to prevent Defendant’s impending damage which will cause irreparable harm,” the complaint states. “Only by injunction can his rights be adequately protected.”
Stenger claims the defendant will not be unduly harmed if injunctive relief is granted and it will serve the public interest.
Stenger is seeking that the defendant be permanently enjoined from any action that would drain the pools of deep water that now constitute a lawful fence for his properties and that the defendant be permanently enjoined from damaging or destroying his riparian property rights.
The demolition project began after the CWB voted to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the West Milford, Highland and Two Lick Dams and then renovate the Hartland Dam.
Proponents of the project said it will allow the CWB to rid themselves of the liability that comes with the dams and the Roller Effect they create, as well as the cost of maintenance.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be able to restore the West Fork River to its natural flow and recreate the habitat of endangered species of mussels.
Stenger is representing himself. The case has been assigned to Circuit Court Judge James A. Matish.
Harrison Circuit Court case number: 16-C-109