UPDATE 7/23/12 @ 11:05 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Controversy over a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to allow a barge fleeting facility in the Westmoreland community continued to brew Monday night.
This time, it was at the Huntington City Council meeting.
Even though the item wasn't up for a vote or even on the agenda, angry residents from Westmoreland renewed their battle that began in 1994. They flat out oppose any plans for a barge fleeting facility along the Ohio River.
The neighbors also brought up familiar concerns about potential noise, water and air pollution.
In contention for nearly two decades, the proposed barge docking site has many still up in arms.
WSAZ.com has the latest on why the permit finally passed, who's still mad, why and what's next.
This environment versus economy battle began in Westmoreland in 1994. And after permitting withdrawals and rejections and community protests, the city of Huntington is still in litigation over the issue,
The Army Corps of Engineers authorized a South Point, Ohio, company to start building and docking. That’s a big hurdle now jumped, but there are more to come.
Emotions ran high even for people in Westmoreland on the same side in opposition to the barge fleeting facility. Angry neighbors have complained since 1994 and continue to believe that docking more than 70 barges on the Ohio River -- just over from the Westmoreland neighborhood floodwall and levee -- would be harmful to health, home, and happiness.
The Corps says in objectively weighing environment vs. economy concerns, river commerce is what tipped the scales for the permit OK.
They say in 2010, for example, the busy port of Huntington moved 61 million tons of material through -- representing $9 billion worth.
And they say there was no compelling reason to deny the permit.
One former city councilman said the barge facility would provide about a dozen jobs and minimal city revenue. New city Councilwoman Joyce Clark lives in Westmoreland and says barge fleet zoning permits may be hard to come by.
We left two messages with Superior Marine, also known as Huntington Marine Service, located in South Point. That’s company that wants to build the fleet. Company officials did not return our calls.
A standing room only crowd, mostly Westmoreland residents, came to voice their opinions about what they said would be an environmental nightmare for their community.
The issue, which dates back to the 90s, was so contentious that council members decided to postpone any sort of decision and get more feedback from residents through public forums.
Residents have maintained that the barges would bring down their property values and reduce air quality.
Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe and the city attorney said the proposal the city was expected to vote upon is an agreement with the barge company. It was drafted in hopes of settling cases in court that have continuously been brought against the city.