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Division of Environmental Protection
105 Railroad Street
Philippi, WV 26416
I am writing to express my concerns on the request by Greer Lime to expand their open pit quarry in Germany Valley in western Pendleton County. My ancestors took Germany Valley from the Shawnee Indians in 1742 and made it their home. At the present time we own two farms in Germany Valley and are concerned about its future and ours.
I realize Greer Lime is the largest employer in the area, probably in the county. As such its continuing operation is important to all of us. My concerns focus on two areas. The first is the Virginia big-eared bat colony in Hellhole. It is my understanding from conversations with representatives from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources that 95% of the 10,000 Virginia big-eared bats in the world hibernate in Hellhole. The reason for this is that within Hellhole are the right combinations of temperature, humidity and air flow not found in any other cave in the area. Any change in one or more of these complex factors by an additional opening from Greer Limes' mining operation could destroy the suitability of the hibernaculum. In a briefing on a meeting between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Greer Lime I was told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informed Greer Lime that they would consider the loss of this fragile habitat as a loss of the entire species.
This brings me to my second concern. The full extent of Hellhole is not known and the surveying effort has been halted by Greer Lime. I have seen the pictures and the most current map of Hellhole superimposed over a topographic map. The northern most end of the survey of Hellhole is only 100' from a fracture set in Wildcat Hollow which is in the area Greer Lime is requesting to mine. The survey data and the photos show large continuing passageway going into blackness that has not yet been defined. I have seen evidence for the fracture from photo's taken from the air and geological samples on the surface.
I would encourage you not to grant Greer Limes' request for the permit until the full extent of Hellhole has been defined by survey. I would encourage you then to only allow mining in those areas not containing cave passageways connected to Hellhole. It is very obvious Pendleton County and West Virginia need both Greer Lime and the Hellhole bat hibernaculum. You have a great opportunity at hand to come up with a win/win situation for industry and conservation in West Virginia.
Richard A. Lambert