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Energy & Environment

Water Protection Project in Jefferson County Aimed At Environment, Safety, Green Jobs

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Shepherd Snyder
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting
About 900 trees have been planted to create a riparian buffer in the Elk's Run Watershed

A large environmental project in Jefferson County is underway in Jefferson County, aimed at ensuring the safe future of area water supplies.

The West Virginia Rivers Coalition has planted nearly 900 trees and shrubs to protect the drinking water in the Harpers Ferry community.

The area, known as a riparian buffer, was planted along the Elk’s Run Watershed, which provides residents of the Jefferson County towns of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar with clean drinking water. It is also the only stream in the county that provides water to a municipality and drinking water to thousands of Harpers Ferry residents and tourists.

A riparian buffer is a natural strip of vegetation next to a stream or a creek that protects it from pollution. Not only does this help the environment, but it also improves the community surrounding it.

“We can’t have a thriving economy without clean water. Our businesses need it -- we can’t have a thriving recreational economy,” said Tanner Haid, Eastern Panhandle field coordinator of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “This means everything to the people that live and work in this community.”

The organization, dedicated to protecting rivers and streams statewide, teamed up with local business owners and the Harpers Ferry Water Commission for this project as a public-private partnership. One local business owner, James Remuzzi of Shepherdstown-based Sustainable Solutions, helped provide the resources needed for the project. He thinks that the buffer brings ecological, economical and social benefit.

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Shepherd Snyder
James Remuzzi, owner of Sustainable Solutions

“These types of projects help generate what we call green-collar jobs, so this idea that doing things like tree plantings, doing watershed improvement projects, actually generates jobs,” Remuzzi said.

Others who helped get the project off the ground include Barbara Humes, a member of the Harpers Ferry Water Commission, and Susannah Buckles, landowner of the Gap View Farm, which contains the headwaters of Elk’s Run.

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Shepherd Snyder
Barbara Humes, member of the Harpers Ferry Water Commission (left), and Susannah Buckles, owner of Gap View Farm (right).

“I think that this project serves as a great example of what could be done with other agricultural properties in the county,” Humes said. “I also think that it could serve as a way for the county ordinances to be looked at and perhaps revised in such a way that when a developer comes into a watershed area, that they could be more cognizant of how to protect open spaces in our zone of critical concern.”

Buckles is using her property to do just that. She thinks it is her responsibility as the landowner to give back to the planet and her community.

“As a landowner, we are stewards of the land, and we try to do the best we possibly can for our fellow living beings and the earth at large,” Buckles said. “I feel a great responsibility for that at this point in my life.”

Though this forest buffer has been finished, Buckles understands the importance of future projects around the state in order to better protect the state’s drinking water, as well as the land surrounding it.

“I think if more people understood the direct impact that these kinds of actions have in a positive way on our environment and our essential needs for water and air, I think that will go a long way towards having more of these projects available,” Buckles said.


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