This article shall be known and cited as the "West Virginia Stream Partners Program Act."
The Legislature finds that efforts to restore, protect and utilize West Virginia's rivers and streams for public health, recreation, commercial and habitat uses are most successful when citizens work in partnership with state agencies to manage the state's rivers and streams by combining community resources, local initiative and state agency support.
It is the purpose of the Legislature, therefore, to establish a program 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.
Subject to annual appropriation of the Legislature, the program shall be jointly administered by the Division of Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Division of Forestry and the West Virginia State Soil Conservation Agency. The director, secretary or commissioner of each of these administering agencies, or his or her designee, collectively constitute an executive committee to oversee the program. The Governor shall designate a member of the executive committee to serve as chair. The committee may designate a staff member from the existing staff of one of the administering agencies to coordinate the program on behalf of the executive committee.
The West Virginia Stream Partners Program shall provide grants to groups comprised of representatives located in the immediate area of the stream or streams being addressed that are dedicated to achieving the purpose stated in section two of this article. The grants shall be awarded by consensus of the executive committee in accordance with legislative rules promulgated by the Department of Environmental Protection pursuant to article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code. Each grant shall be matched by the group of representatives with cash or in-kind services in, at least, an amount equal to twenty percent of the grant: Provided, That no grant shall exceed the amount of $5,000.
In order to qualify for grants from the West Virginia Stream Partners Program, a group of representatives located in the immediate area of a stream or streams which qualify under section two of this article shall apply to the executive committee in accordance with the following requirements and in accordance with any other provision of this article or any applicable rule. The application shall:
(a) Identify the stream or streams to be restored, protected, utilized or enhanced;
(b) Identify the representatives of groups applying for funds and the financially responsible entity to receive funds, all from the geographic area immediately surrounding the stream or streams. These identified individuals shall represent the general public, industry, environmental groups, sportsmen, forestry, agriculture, local government, tourism, recreation and affected landowners, all located in the geographic area immediately surrounding the stream or streams;
(c) Demonstrate an ability to achieve, within the grant year, a specific improvement project that enhances the identified stream or streams; and
(d) Evidence a commitment to educate the citizens in the area of the identified stream or streams about the benefits of restoring, protecting and enhancing the stream or streams in a responsible manner.
The administering agencies may provide staff and other resources as necessary to address the technical assistance and administrative needs of the West Virginia Stream Partners Program. This support may include the utilization of resources and formulation of policies to achieve the purpose set forth in section two of this article.