CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Joe Manchin today called the 2008 Regular Session of the West Virginia Legislature a success, particularly noting the significance of the Legislature's work that eliminated the cumbersome "Tier 2.5 Status" designation for streams. This is a move that will protect some of the state's most pristine streams, the governor said.
"With leadership from Speaker Thompson and President Tomblin, I think our legislators passed a number of significant measures this session, including some we've been wrestling with for a number of years," Manchin said. "They broke an eight-year deadlock that has held up designating our cleanest streams and natural trout streams for protection under the federal Clean Water Act."
Manchin was referring to the passage of Senate Bill 373, which grants the highest level of protection from pollution (Tier 3 status) to the cleanest streams -- those that produce native trout -- and that are on public lands such as state and national parks. Under the new provisions, private landowners' rights are still protected, as such streams that are on their land would receive Tier 2 status, but could become eligible for the additional Tier 3 protection under a nomination process.
Previously, lawmakers had struggled with deciding how many and which streams would be put on the Tier 2.5 protection list.
"The state can now move forward on a process to designate our trout streams for protection, most of which lie within the existing boundaries of public lands," Manchin said. "This will keep our trout streams clean without too much interference into a private landowner's rights."
The governor also lauded the success of bills establishing the "Bucks for Brains" higher education research endowment, providing more money to the School Building Authority, establishing an energy sales tax holiday and giving senior citizens a property tax deferment option.