PARKERSBURG - Forty-one of West Virginia's counties lost population from 2012 to 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, but Doddridge and Wirt counties were not among them.
Photo courtesy of MarkWest Energy Partners
Three processing plants at MarkWest Energy Partners’ Sherwood complex in Doddridge County are shown. The plants and other oil and gas activity are believed to have played a role in a recent population increase for the county.
According to data released this week, the two counties were among 14 in the state that saw their number of residents rise instead of fall last year.
Doddridge County's population rose by 136 from an estimate of 8,208 in 2012 to 8,344 in 2013. That's an increase of 1.7 percent from the 2010 Census.
"My guess would be gas and oil," said Doddridge County Commission President Ralph Sandora. "'Cause it's booming here in Doddridge County."
By The Numbers
* West Virginia1,852,9991,856,6801,854,304
In addition to Marcellus shale drilling operations, Doddridge County is home to MarkWest Energy Partners' Sherwood Complex, which currently consists of three cryogenic gas processing plants, each capable of processing 200 million cubic feet of natural gas a day. Two more plants are now under construction.
Despite all that activity, Sandora said, Doddridge County is still very much a rural area where people can retire, move back up into "one of these hollers" and enjoy a relaxing atmosphere.
"It's kind of quiet," he said.
Wirt County was the only other county in the Mid-Ohio Valley region to see its population climb. Census estimates place the 2013 population at 5,901, up 3.2 percent from 2010.
Wirt County Commissioner Robert Lowe said he wasn't sure of an overall driver for the rise in population, but he noted some residents work outside the county but choose to live there instead of closer to their jobs.
"It's a good place to live, we have a wonderful school system, and you'd like to think that would attract some people," Lowe said.
Some local officials suspect it won't be long before Wood County joins its neighbors in the upward trend, thanks to oil and gas activity and the ethane cracker plant Brazil-based Odebrecht has proposed building in Washington Bottom.
"I do believe, of course, that with everything going on, the population will reverse itself and start increasing," Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said.
Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch said he's hearing constant discussion about the potential for new apartment complexes to be built. And he said the area already has appealing characteristics, including a strong school system and a low crime rate.
"What makes our community wonderful, we want to make sure we maintain that," Couch said.
According to the Census data, Monongalia County, home to West Virginia University, had the largest gain, with1,747 people. Most of those gains involved people coming from out of state. The Eastern Panhandle counties of Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan also saw growth. Cabell and Putnam counties were the only two gaining population in southern West Virginia.
Eight of the 10 counties that lost the most population were in southern West Virginia, led by Kanawha and McDowell.
Overall, West Virginia's population fell nearly 2,400 last year. The state has 1.85 million residents.
The Associated Press contributed.