West Virginia

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WV creelWest Virginia enjoys some of the best trout habitat in the south, all located in the eastern highlands.  Based on the data developed by the WV DEP in the mid-2000s, and published in 2007, WV enjoys an amazing water resource. A KMZ which marks these streams is included in the zip download file.

Unfortunately, in a preview of the degraded, fact-free political debate that is often characterizing today's politics, West Virginia experienced a seething political battle in 2011 over the definition of a trout stream. Of course, a trout stream isn't just a trout stream. Under the Clean Water Act, if a stream is so designated, it greatly reduces the ability of anyone (read mining and timber interests) to develop resources in a way that would degrade water quality. Hence the politics.

But in WV, it became surreal. As part of its submission to the EPA circa 2007, the WV EPA submitted a list of 647 water bodies (almost all streams) designated as "trout waters", i.e. as water which scientifically was determined to support populations of trout. These are more or less the streams marked in the KMZ.

Prior to 2007, the state recognized some 300-odd streams as "trout waters". In 2006, the WVEPA submitted a list of an additional 300 plus streams to be added to the list. Then it gets confusing. From what I gather, after intensive lobbying, the state legislature determined to take away the state EPA's power to manage these lists, and assumed direct legislative control. As far as I can tell, none of the new streams were added.

Indeed, in 2010, the governor of WV proposed to cut the list to roughly 175 streams segments, a quarter of the actual stream segments holding trout!  I'm not close enough to the situation to understand the final result: I fear for the trout streams.

BTW, the Federal EPA no longer collects this data. It's now been "decentralized" and responsibility for collecting and publishing this data has devolved to the states...