New Trail Property Purchased in Preston County

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Finally!  A big win for FOC’s Preston Rail-Trail Committee!

For Immediate Release – April 7, 2015

Today, project partners Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission (PCPaRC) and Friends of the Cheat (FOC) announced that ten miles of the former West Virginia Northern railroad corridor between Kingwood and Tunnelton has been purchased for conversion into a rail-trail.

Funding for the property acquisition was provided by the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways; the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust; and, the West Virginia Division of Tourism.  The property and associated trail rights were purchased from Utah-based Kern Valley Railroad which acquired the railroad in 2000 following the closure of the stakeholder-operated Kingwood Northern tourist train.

Since 2002, a group of volunteers known as the Preston Rail-Trail Committee (PRTC) has worked persistently and patiently on developing rail-trails on three corridors in Preston County, and this purchase marks the group’s first rail-trail acquisition.  In 2011, FOC took action to bring attention and resources to other aspects of the project.  These efforts resulted in a wave of activity:  the century old water tower was listed as a historic Endangered Property by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia; funding and technical support from the West Virginia Northern Brownfields Assistance Center supported the development of conceptual revitalization plans for the former railcar maintenance facility near the water tower; and Stan Hostler donated 2.5 acres of property adjacent to the water tower and trail.  The emergence of the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission as a partner represents the project’s final keystone because their willingness to own and manage the trail allows the project to come to fruition.

“The West Virginia Northern Rail-Trail is exactly the type of endeavor the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission was formed to support.  The rail-trail will link two communities and provide a new outdoor space for free, low-impact exercise.” explains PCPaRC President Lynn Housner.  PCPaRC Commissioner Paul Martin believes the new rail-trail will also “enhance existing recreation opportunities offered at the Craig Civic Center and local schools in both Kingwood and Tunnelton.”

PCPaRC and FOC are ready to hit the trail running, and they have the funds to do so.  The Recreational Trails program has granted the project team an additional $420,000 for rail-trail design and construction.  With support from the Division of Highways, design will commence immediately with construction slated for 2016.  A ground breaking event is being planned for this summer.

The groups will fundraise for additional rail-trail construction and maintenance funds.  On Saturday, May 2nd PRTC will host the 11th annual Cheat Fest 5K with proceeds benefitting rail-trail projects in Preston County.  Sign up to participate at http://cheatfest.org/activities-2/5k/

PRTC is eager to get more community members involved.  The group meets the first Monday of each month at 5pm at the FOC offices in Kingwood.  Learn more at www.cheat.org/recreation/trails.


Ducks & Swans

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If a man fails to honor the rivers, he shall not gain the life from them. — Anonymous

I was raised on the Alabama gulf coast. As far back as I can remember, I was sporting on the water. Coastal cultures are different from inland cultures: different values, hobbies, and mannerisms. So, it has always been with a bit of trepidation that I have moved to inland cities and towns, no less so when I moved to West Virginia. Fortunately for me, I met a man named Bob Spangler. Though he claims to be from these parts, I noted a glimmer of the coast in his eye. Did I mention coastal people are a little crazy? Maybe it is all that water seeping into the brain.

Nonetheless, Bob introduced me to another kindred water spirit, Attila, who designs and manufactures inflatable kayaks. I visited his shop, Custom Inflatables, and saw first hand the care and pride his team puts into the best inflatable kayaks on the market today. Anyway, I worked out a deal on a used “ThrillSeeker,” picked up a quality marine pump and was on my way.

While I have enjoyed rafting all my life, hard boating (the graceful swans of our sport) demands a skill set that some people find more difficult to master than others. But a ThrillSeeker! I could suddenly boat in my own craft down the Cheat Canyon. While such excursions are certainly a thrill, “harrowing” is also a word that comes to mind.

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I have always enjoyed running the Narrows on my inflatable sofa: feet up, eyes on the sky; watching eagles and hawks watching us. I even invented my own water sport called “Guerilla Kayaking.” With my ThrillSeeker and pump tucked away in the trunk of my car, I can travel anywhere in America, scouting nontraditional put in and take out points. Or, I just put in. The take out takes care of itself. See, water creates community. While in landers may go about their own business, failing to look strangers in the eye, to seize the opportunities of meaningful coincidences, water people are much more sensitive to these nuances of human experience– to our interconnectedness with the natural world and with each other.

Yes, water creates community, and communities create questions: whose water is it? What are my responsibilities for stewardship of this resource? How does my relationship with the water mature?

But surely, the glory of the water is reflected in each of us, each time we choose to enjoy it in our own way. It is more than astonishing sceneries, or the mastery of mad skills. It is a heart-song we sing together: sharing paddles, food and drink, music, and remedies for poison ivy. It is a war cry: sounded and heard from a line run just so; from a friend who overcame a fear; from a drunken commercial raft who hits the rapid sideways.

Our water community is diverse. Answers to pressing questions will reflect that complexity. But we return to the water, time and time again, and each time we find our self.

Walt Turner recently retired from Bethany College where he was an Associate Professor of English.

Tundra swan photo by Derek Courtney.


Friends of the Cheat Seeks Restoration Program Manager

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February 23, 2015

Position Summary: Friends of the Cheat is a nonprofit watershed association in Preston County, West Virginia working to restore, preserve, and promote the outstanding natural qualities of the Cheat River watershed since 1995 (www.cheat.org).  In recent years, the organization has grown to a staff of 9 with active volunteer groups and diverse partners in government agencies, academic institutions, and a variety of business and non-profit stakeholders.

The Restoration Program Manager oversees all aspects of restoration projects and programs at Friends of the Cheat.  Responsibilities include program development, project management, field work, data management and analysis, organizational management and employee supervision.  The position manages complex projects spanning multiple years requiring time management and task prioritization skills as well as the ability to adaptively manage problems and setbacks.  Excellent organizational and communication skills are essential to the position.  The position requires proficiency in Microsoft Suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access), Adobe Acrobat Professional, Google Apps, WordPress, and ESRI ArcGIS products.  The Restoration Program Manager is supervised by the Executive Director.  Some training will be provided.

Qualifications: Applicants should have a B.S. or Masters degree in science, engineering, or related degree, stream monitoring/field work experience, and project management experience. Knowledge of chemistry, acid mine drainage, water quality, field instruments and environmental issues is preferred. Other desired skills include proficiency in MS Office productivity software (especially Excel and Access), experience with ArcGIS and Google Earth, experience with procurement of contractors and contract management, budgeting and grant management experience and excellent oral and written communication skills. The ideal candidates will be highly motivated, well organized, able to work independently, enjoy being outside, working in a team atmosphere, and have a strong desire to contribute to the organization’s mission. A valid driver’s license is required.  FOC will review applicant DMV records.

Details: Full time salaried position ($30,000 – $39,000) with paid holidays, 15 paid personal days, and flexible work schedule; health insurance; company vehicle available for travel and field work; smart phone, tablet, new computers and updated productivity software provided. Anticipated start in May, date is negotiable. Limited funds may be available for partial reimbursement of relocation expenses.  Self-directed professional development is expected and supported. Potential exists for promotion and hiring of program assistant. Opportunity to work in a fast-pace energetic team setting. Area has excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation: hiking, biking, paddling, fishing.

Application: E-mail cover letter, resume, and contact information for 3 references to Kevin Ryan (kevin at cheat.org) before April 3rd 2015 for full consideration.  E-mail subject line should read “Program Manager Application”. For more information about Friends of the Cheat, visit www.cheat.org.


FOC Hiring Media Specialist – deadline 1/28/15

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Friends of the Cheat, Inc., a non-profit, grassroots, watershed group based out of Kingwood, WV seeks a dynamic individual or team to take over the daily management, planning, and development of the organization’s web and print media, including the group’s two websites, blog, Facebook pages, print and electronic newsletter, e-mail communications, and special media associated with outreach and fundraising events and opportunities.

Required Competencies

Computer Software and Content Management Systems:  MS Office, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (preferred but equivalents considered), WordPress, Google Services (Drive, Calendar, etc.)

Social Media Applications:  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, MailChimp

Excellent verbal and written communication skills

Excellent organizational skills

Proven ability to meet and push others to meet deadlines

Detail-oriented

Experience with journalism, peer-editing, print material layout, and an eye for design are necessary for success.  The ability to work independently while staying connected to the FOC team is key in addition to understanding non-profits and the local social landscape.  Knowledge of water, conservation, recreation, and local and state issues is also very helpful.  Superior applicants will have vision for how the position can strategically support FOC programs and initiatives.

FOC offers this position as a fixed-price contract with hours projected at up to 350-400 annually.

Interested parties should submit a cover letter, resume, list of 3 professional references, and a minimum of 3 work examples such as:  writing samples, links to websites designed and/or managed, print and/or web material from educational, marketing, or fundraising campaigns, photography, videos, other print or web media, and presentations.  Quality over quantity preferred.  Creative applications encouraged.  Electronic and hard-copy submissions (or a combination thereof) will be accepted until Wednesday, January 28th.

Send application materials to:

Friends of the Cheat, Amanda Pitzer, Executive Director

E-mail:                                Amanda@cheat.org

Mailing Address:            Friends of the Cheat

119 South Price Street, Suite 206

Kingwood, WV 26537


An Interview with Bob McVicker, Chief Operator, Kingwood Water Treatment Plant

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Bob McVicker

Bob McVicker, Kingwood Treatment Plant Chief Operator

Robert McVicker is the Chief Operator at the Kingwood Water Treatment and Filtration Plant on Route 72 downstream of the Cheat River Narrows.  He has been keeping Kingwood’s drinking water looking clear and tasting clean since 2002.  He recently received the Perkins-Boynton Award from the West Virginia American Water Works Association for exemplary operations in systems with more than 1,000 customers. Also, in 2011 and 2012 he received the Area Wide Optimization Award for outstanding efforts toward optimizing filter plant performance.  Before pursuing a career in drinking water treatment, Robert operated and maintained nuclear power reactors on Navy submarines and power plants.

Bob, where does our water in Kingwood come from?  Do we have a backup supply?

Kingwood’s water comes from the Cheat River.  The Cheat always has water, even in a drought.  We have a high water in-take and a low-water in-take.  When the water is really low in the river – to the point where you can walk across it on rocks, we can still get water from underneath the riverbed.  We don’t have a backup water supply right now, but I would like to explore putting in a well as a backup system.

Can you briefly explain how the water is treated?  Is it easy work?

First we pump the water to a distribution box where we inject chemicals to counteract the charged particles present in the water so that the particles can clump together and settle out.  The solids settle in two outdoor clarifier tanks which do the majority of the work.  Then the water flows through carbon filters to polish it off.  Then we add some chlorine to keep it clean while it’s flowing through the water system and while we pump it to one of four holding tanks in Kingwood.

We currently only have two operators so we work on average one 12 ½ hour shift per day, and switch who works every other weekend.  We produce water 12 hours every day and shut down at night.  It is not easy work.

Pringle Run, Lick Run, and Heather Run flow into the Cheat upstream of the water intake.  Does the acid mine drainage present in those stream affect the drinking water quality?

We are lucky that the AMD in those streams have about 1 mile in the Cheat before reaching the water in-takes.  The pH is already back up after about 100 yards below the confluence.  The volume of the Cheat is so large that even with a low alkalinity number it has sufficient alkalinity that it cleans the water before it even gets to us.  The solids from the metals settle out before it gets to us.  In fact, some extra solids coming into the system helps me treat the water because when more solids stick together, they become heavier and settle to the bottom of the clarifier tanks easier.

Charleston chemical spill.  How has it affected your job?  Could it happen here?

We already have a source water protection plan (SWPP).  We test for pH, conductivity and temperature continually with online monitors provided by RAIN (river alert information network) of which we are a member.  Now that we have to comply with SB 373, we must make some changes to the SWPP, but we will have a hard time coming up with the money and the time to do it.  The point is to determine specific parameters to monitor for according to the specific point sources present upstream.

Here, we need to keep an eye out for trucks and cars that may enter the river near the Rolwesburg bridges.  But if they spill a fuel, often it will float on the surface, and then we will start pumping from our underground water in-take if we need to.  The main thing is to just be conscientious.  We use common sense in those scenarios.

Has there ever been an unpredicted event affecting water quality at the plant?

From time to time we issue a boil water advisory, but that is not due to source water contamination.  It is usually due to a break in a water line, so there is a potential for contamination.  It is more of a precautionary step until we repair the pipes.

Most things can be treated, but it’s hard to treat water without electricity. We have to worry most about Mother Nature – she will kick your butt!

Sometimes it smells bad when driving by the treatment plant.  Why is that?

The wastewater treatment plan is right next to us, but it is not possible for the poop to contaminate our drinking water because that effluent discharges into Morgan Run which enters the Cheat downstream of our in-takes.   We have even altered the bed of the Cheat to make sure no water from Morgan Run gets near our in-takes.

Do you recreate in the Cheat River?  What is your favorite thing about the Cheat River?

I fish for trout in the Cheat, but often I don’t have the time!  I work on average 11 to 13 hours a day at the plant.

It’s a good river – we have good raw materials to work with.  The river is a living, dynamic system that changes regardless of the weather.  That keeps it very interesting.

What’s in store for the future of the Kingwood Plant?

There is always room for improvement.  This place has a lot of potential, but improvements cost money that we often don’t have.   We have good facilities and equipment here – I wouldn’t have stayed here this long if we didn’t.  I always do above-average work, or I don’t do it.

Thanks for sharing with us, Bob.

By: Kevin Ryan