If there are many upsides to living in Eagle Rock, however, there is also one downside. It is rural Virginia.
Okay, two downsides. It is comprised in large measure of people who live at or near the poverty line.
Well, three. Eagle Rock has no say when it comes to decisions made in Richmond. No clout. No one fighting for its well-being.
Thus it is that when a wetland has to be bulldozed over in Henrico County, 172 miles away, near some tributary of the James River, to create luxury condos for the rich folks moving into the area, a farm field has to be bulldozed and turned into a swamp across the state in tiny Eagle Rock.
Your reaction is one of disbelief? You say that's not possible? See for yourself.
This is a view looking east from the highway. Just this side of the treeline in the distance meanders the James River. Between there and the hay field in the foreground is a lush, healthy, productive cornfield. It's that cornfield that has been purchased by the Virginia Department of Transportation - for $3,000,000 - and is to be plowed under and turned into a swamp.
Here's a closer look:
To understand how a cash-strapped VDOT felt compelled to purchase a cornfield in mountainous and sparsely populated western Virginia, with the intention of taking it out of production forever and turning it over to the snakes and mosquitoes, one needs to understand the incomprehensible, nearly.
It has to do with the United States government, naturally, in the form(s) of the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, and with Congress, naturally, and The Clean Water Act, Section 404(b)(1). With acronyms like NNL, or No Net Loss. With arcane terms like wetland credits and wetland mitigation banks. With environmental impact studies and compensatory mitigation.
What it all boils down to is this: A cornfield in tiny, backward, poverty-stricken Eagle Rock, Virginia is being converted into a swamp, a swamp, allowing VDOT 36 acres of "wetlands credits" so that a rich developer in Powhatan can add to the sprawl in the state's capital. They dig a hole here so as to be able to fill one in there.
There is nothing more shameful, more disgraceful than this. Are the citizens of Eagle Rock not Virginians too?
It's no different than had the state government decided to make Eagle Rock Richmond's garbage landfill.
Wealthy Virginia's feculent backwater cesspool.
A toxic dumping ground.
It would be one thing if the state mandated that a developer, should he decide to rework a wetland area in order to construct a housing complex, secure land nearby for the purpose of "offset." But the law reads such that a developer, or a state agency like VDOT, gains credits if the land set aside is "in the same watershed." Thus, a piece of property in Botetourt County in far western reaches of the commonwealth can be forever turned into a swamp as an offset for a construction project down the James River, all the way across the state of Virginia, in some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country.
To add insult to injury, U.S. 220 is still dangerous. It's been recognized for years as being dangerous. It will remain a hazard to area residents for many years to come. While VDOT brings in earthmoving equipment to destroy that cornfield, the highway nearby will continue to take lives. And nothing will be done about it.
VDOT is broke.
For the love of God.
To learn more on this subject, go to the following:
- Memorandum of Agreement between the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the US Environmental Protection Agency
- The Clean Water Act Section 404(b)(1)
- A primer on Wetlands Mitigstion Banking
- The Eagle Rock Wetlands Mitigation Bank
- Links and downloads to mitigation banking through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers