/* Begin Common Code>
/* End Common Code> October 17, 2000
Division of Environmental Protection
105 Railroad Street, Suite 301
Philippi, West Virginia 26416
To whom it may concern:
It has come to my attention that the Greer Lime Company in Germany Valley has filed for a permit renewal and expansion of its operation to the east of its current operations.
The Greer Lime quarry is located directly west of Hellhole; one of the most significant caves in West Virginia. The limestone bed that makes quarrying a viable, commercial product also produces some of the largest cave passages and rooms in West Virginia and one of the most-impressive cave systems in the world.
Hellhole is one of the largest hibernaculums for the Virginia Big-Eared Bat (Plecotus townsendii virginianus) in the world. There are presently 9000 Big-Ears in the cave, with a total population of about 20,000 in the world. Thus, Hellhole contains about 45% of the world's total population. The Virginia Big-Eared Bat is a federally endangered species.
The cave is also the largest hibernaculums in the eastern United States for the Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis). It contains approximately 9000 of these bats; no other cave within the region comes close to the same population. The Indiana Bat is a federally endangered species.
Also, Hellhole is one of the largest hibernaculums for the Little-Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) in the world. It contains an estimated 100,000 bats. There are only a couple of sites in the world which are larger.
Lastly, the cave is also home to a scattering of other bat species and contains two rare cave invertebrates, both of which are millipedes. One is the Germany Valley Cave Millipede and the other Luray Caverns Blind Cave Millipede.
Hellhole has not been completely explored and mapped and could contain many more miles of passage. Historically, every time Hellhole has been legitimately explored in recent times, additional passage has been discovered. Hence, it is the key to understanding the complex karst hydrology of Germany Valley. In addition, Hellhole is the longest and most complex cave in West Virginia developed in Ordovician strata.
The bottom line is that Hellhole is one of the most significant and biologically important caves in West Virginia. It should be protected at all costs, and quarrying operations should not intersect it.
I am not against Greer Lime Company conducting its business; I just feel that additional information is required before any permit can be issued which expands operations towards Hellhole. Because the Greer Lime Company wants to expand to the east, it is of utmost importance that Hellhole be completely explored and mapped before operations are allowed to expand toward it. In addition, the hydrological picture in Germany Valley is incompletely understood, and a study should be completed to properly determine this picture.
To reiterate, Hellhole should be completely surveyed before the quarry is allowed to expand toward this very significant cave. I am not opposed to the Greer Lime Company quarrying within Germany Valley but I would like to see safeguards in place to protect the cave and the federally endangered bats that it contains.
John E. Pearson
HC 66, Box 411
Renick, WV 24966