Voice of the People
Voice of the People
Amendment is overreaction
I scarcely know where to begin to comment on the proposed amendment to the West Virginia Constitution "Claiming West Virginia's Water Resources for the Use and Benefit of its Citizens."
Obviously a reaction or overreaction to the recent chemical spill into the Elk River and frantic demands for greater water safety, it raises many questions for which no answers are available. The language is so vague as to be meaningless and yet capable of the broadest interpretation. To "claim" is to assert a truth or a right to the use, possession or ownership of property. My first thought is that, by this amendment, West Virginia is asserting ownership of all water resources in the state. Rainfall is a resource, ergo, the state owns the rain. That is akin to claiming ownership of the wind or the song of a bird. Ridiculous!
I own a large tract of land, whereon originates a small stream that flows by my door. Water for drinking, bathing etc., is supplied by a private well. Under the Common Law, my ownership of the land includes everything below, to the center of the earth, and above, to the highest reach of the sky. Insofar as it is possible to own water, that which falls on my land is mine so long as it remains on my land. Is it the purpose of this amendment to deprive me of that property right and vest it in the state? May the state then bar me from using the water or exact a fee for its use?
The state has never been deterred by lack of ownership from regulating all manner of activities and interests. I oppose this proposed amendment as unnecessary and as a contradiction to the state's stirring motto: "Mountaineers Always Free."
Lawrence L. Pauley
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