Thursday, November 10, 2016

Maryland, West Virginia Fight Old War Over Potomac Water

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey expressed willingness to sue neighboring Maryland if its leaders continue to limit West Virginia’s access to the Potomac River, a water source critical to economic expansion in the Eastern Panhandle.

The Attorney General outlined his concerns this week in a letter addressed to Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Secretary of the Environment Benjamin H. Grumbles.

The letter challenges Maryland’s time-consuming and costly permit process arguing the Mountain State’s neighbor has no legal authority to interfere with West Virginia’s access to the Potomac River.
We're not all that happy with Maryland's time-consuming and costly permit process, either,
“It is fundamentally unfair for Maryland to claim regulatory authority to tilt the competitive balance in its favor by limiting West Virginia’s access to basic utilities like water,” Attorney General Morrisey writes. “It is also unlawful.”
By a very old agreement between Maryland and Virginia back in 1785, the line between the two states is at the low water line off the Potomac on the Virginia side. This allowed Maryland businesses to have gambling in piers off the Virginia shore when gambling was allowed in Maryland but not Virginia. West Virginia split from Virginia at the time of the Civil War, so the rights of Virginia passed down to West Virginia.
The letter cites the potential for rapid population growth and commercial development in the Eastern Panhandle as a major concern, and says daily demand for water in the region could increase by two million gallons.
That doesn't sound like that much.  A few wells ought to do it.
The letter cites as legal authority a 1785 compact between Maryland and Virginia, which gave Virginia a sovereign right to the Potomac’s water. The U.S. Supreme Court has suggested that West Virginia, which has a common history with Virginia, is entitled to the same rights under the 231- year-old compact.
So they can't have the land under the water, but they can have the water? Sure, dig a hole that connects to the River, and the water will pour into it. Problem solved.
Morrisey asked, in the letter, that Maryland’s leadership agree within 21 days to work with West Virginia in drafting an interstate compact for submission to the U.S. Congress.

Otherwise, the letter states West Virginia will file an original action with the U.S. Supreme Court to seek a declaration of its rights to the Potomac River.
 It's amusing that these old colonial era decisions, apparently irrational (but beware of Chesterton's Fence) still rule the modern era.

1 comment:

  1. Not that unusual. Vermont and New York had an agreement about their boundary in Lake Champlain; the boundary was supposed to be at the deepest part of the lake. Then New York's Fort Ticonderoga paper plant starting discharging so many solids into the lake that the deepest part of the lake started moving closer and closer to the Vermont shoreline.

    That one went to the U.S. Supreme Court.