Executive Summary

The West Virginia Stream Partners Program was created in 1996 under §20-13-1 of the West Virginia Code. The Program is jointly administered by the Division of Natural Resources, the Division of Environmental Protection, the Division of Forestry, and the State Soil Conservation Agency. The headquarters is located within the Division of Environmental Protection's Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation. General Revenue in the amount of $100,000 is appropriated to the Stream Partners Program Fund on an annual basis. The purpose of the Program is

...to encourage citizens to work in partnership with appropriate State agencies so that the State's rivers and streams: (a) Are safe for swimming, fishing and other forms of recreation; (b) can support appropriate public and commercial purposes; and (c) can provide habitat for plant and animal life.

ISSUE AREA 1:The Stream Partners Program has a Positive Impact on the Citizens of West Virginia.

Since the inception of the Stream Partners Program (SPP) in 1996, numerous communities throughout the State have benefitted from the grant money that the SPP distributes. Watershed associations have used the Stream Partners' grants to enhance their respective streams. Some of the watershed associations are able to take the $1,000 to $5,000 SPP grants and use them as "seed money" to acquire grants from other organizations and to obtain in-kind contributions. Local businesses and citizens have donated time, equipment, and materials to help complete watershed projects throughout the State. These projects have increased the recreational value of streams and rivers, and provided safer conditions for humans as well as plant and aquatic life. The watershed associations provide outreach to their respective communities, which helps educate citizens about the streams in their areas. In essence, the SPP grants give watershed associations momentum and credibility within the communities that they represent.

ISSUE AREA 2:Controls Over Grant Money Distribution Could Be Improved.

The distribution of grant money is an integral part of the Stream Partners Program (SPP) and demonstrates the Program's performance. The Legislative Auditor's review of the grantees' files indicates that there are deficiencies with the reporting and control process, which can lead to a less than ideal allocation of resources. The Stream Partners Program promulgated a Legislative Rule effective May 4, 1999, which provided some structure that was lacking in the Program prior to its passage. However, the Rule does not provide adequate consideration of the past performance of grantees. The Executive Committee needs to improve the review process by giving formal consideration to the grantees' past performance and incorporating logical reference points into the scoring system that is presently used. In addition, enhancing the application and reporting processes should allow the Program Coordinator and the Executive Committee to acquire a better understanding of the grantees' overall performance.

ISSUE AREA 3:The Stream Partners Program Has Deviated from the Governance Structure Established in Statute and Violated the Open Meetings Law.

The Legislature created the Stream Partners Program in 1996 with the intention of having a four person Executive Committee to administer the Program. The Governor was to designate a member of the Executive Committee to serve as the chairman. However, the Stream Partners Program has an eight member "Review Team" which was initially created as an advisory subcommittee to the Executive Committee and has evolved into a default Executive Committee due to the lack of participation by the four administering agency Directors. Further, no official chairman has of yet been appointed by the Governor. During the first three years of funding, the Review Team did not conduct any open meetings and the Directors have never met on a formal basis. It is imperative that the Directors or their duly appointed designees convene as a bona fide Executive Committee for the purpose of administering the Stream Partners Program as required by law. During the first three years of funding, the Review Team did not conduct any open meetings and no minutes exist for these proceedings.