Governor Justice pushes lake development idea: 'The only thing we don't have is an ocean'

Summersville Lake, West Virginia's largest lake, features more than 28,000 acres of water and 60 miles of shoreline. Gov. Jim Justice says he would like to see multiple lakes developed in the state. (WCHS/WVAH)

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice floated the idea of developing more lakes in West Virginia to make up for what the state doesn’t have – an ocean. But just how many lakes are in the Mountain State now?

“We need the ability to develop those lakes,” Justice said during his State of the State address Wednesday in Charleston. “Do you know if you step back to think about it, four of the most beautiful seasons in the world, the most incredible people on the planet, the most unbelievable natural resources, and we’re located within 600 miles of two-thirds of the people in the country. The only thing we don’t have is an ocean.”

Justice did not identify any specific lake projects, but he mentioned the idea as he was talking about how important tourism is to the state's economy. He said the state needs to develop multiple lakes that would provide hydroelectric power, “which maybe we don’t need, but at the same time, they can give us flood control.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District lists seven West Virginia lakes and reservoirs on its website – Beech Fork Lake in Wayne County: Bluestone Lake in Summers County; Burnsville Lake in Braxton County; East Lynn Lake in Wayne County; R.D. Bailey Lake in Mingo County; Summersville Lake in Nicholas County; and Sutton Lake in Braxton County.

Meanwhile, the West Virginia Division of Tourism lists on its website the top seven lakes in the state for summer fun – Summersville Lake, the largest lake in the state with 28,000 acres of water and 60 miles of shoreline; Cheat Lake, just east of Morgantown; Stonewall Jackson Lake in Lewis County; Lake Sherwood in the Monongahela National Forest; Sleepy Creek Lake in Berkeley County; East Lynn Lake in Wayne County; and ACE Lake, the water park at ACE Adventure Resort in the New River Gorge area.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, however, lists a county-by-county breakdown with more than 100 bodies of water under the lake category on its website. The list covers what appears to be a very broad category of public fishing access sites, however, that range from the Coonskin Park Lake to the massive Summersville Lake.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines lake as “a considerable inland body of standing water.” No matter how you define it, however, West Virginia’s governor believes there is a need for large-scale projects. He said Austin Caperton, who heads the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, will lead the charge for the development of projects.

“Our state needs more developable lakes. It is a project that you may think is a pipe dream, but I am telling you, without any doubt, there is an infrastructure program about to be announced by our president, and we need to be at the line waiting,” Justice said.

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