Morrisey hails victory in dispute with Maryland over Potomac River usage

By Chris Dickerson | Dec 1, 2016

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is pleased with Maryland's plan to stop a permitting process that restricted West Virginia’s use of the Potomac River.

Morrisey had called the process an unlawful procedure that hinders economic growth in the West Virginia's eastern Panhandle.

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Secretary of the Environment Benjamin H. Grumbles signed a letter acknowledging West Virginia’s right to the Potomac River and agreed to cease further review and issuance of water appropriation and use permits for West Virginia users.

“I welcome Maryland’s willingness to cease its efforts to regulate West Virginia’s use of the Potomac River,” Morrisey said in a statement. “Its unequivocal acknowledgement of West Virginia’s right to the river represents an important step in protecting residential and commercial development in a rapidly-growing part of our state. My office continues to review the matter and will evaluate what next steps, if any, are necessary.

"Given Maryland's admission of West Virginia's rights, we no longer believe litigation is necessary at this time. Instead, we intend to work cooperatively with stakeholders both in West Virginia and Maryland to determine logistically what steps might be necessary to guarantee West Virginia's permanent autonomy over additional construction and use of water on our side of the Potomac. It has always been our goal to ensure that there is an adequate amount of water available for our citizens, while at the same time protecting and conserving this valuable resource for future generations. Our next steps will seek to achieve this balance."

Maryland's response follows a letter from Morrisey's office saying it would sue the neighboring state if its leaders continued to limit West Virginia’s access to the Potomac.

The initial letter argued Maryland’s time-consuming and costly permit process hinders population growth and commercial development in the eastern Panhandle – growth that is projected to increase the region's daily demand for water by approximately 2 million gallons.

It is believed new development, already under construction, will spur other companies to consider locating in the eastern Panhandle, creating additional jobs and increasing residential demand for water.

Both letters acknowledge a 1785 compact between Maryland and Virginia also gives West Virginia a sovereign right to the Potomac’s water.

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