Cheat Species Spotlight – Flat-spired three-toothed Snail

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Photo Courtesy of Gabe DeWitt

The Flat-spired three-toothed Snail (Triodopsis platysayoides) is one of the rarest land snails in the world, and is only found within our Cheat River Canyon. This snails’ habitat is restricted to small areas of the canyon that have sandstone cliffs, outcroppings and large boulders. The snail lives in cracks and crevices in the rocks and surrounding leaf litter, and is primarily active at night. Optimum snail activity occurs during spring and early summer, especially during cool, moist weather conditions. The three-toothed snail feeds on a varied diet of over 20 or so documented foods, including several aged leaves and flower blossoms, fresh catkins, pack rat feces, lichens, mushrooms, and crickets.

The shell of Triodopsis platysayoides is pale brown, thin, and coiled to the right with 5 whorls. It is extremely flattened in shape unlike many other species of snails with a cone-like shell. Adult Triodopsis platysayoides are a bit less than an inch across, or a little smaller than a quarter.

Because of the snails’ limited habitat range, they are vulnerable to many natural or human caused disturbances like hikers and bikers inadvertently disrupting the leaf litter cover and crushing them, as well as timbering, housing developments, and forest fires. Recovery efforts for this animal have included fencing occupied habitat (to keep humans away) and the land acquisition of approximately 1,100 acres of snail habitat within the Charlotte Ryde Nature Preserve.

Photo Courtesy of Gabe DeWitt

An interesting fact about a mature Flat-spired three-toothed Snail is that it is actually hermaphroditic. A mating pair has the ability to cross-fertilize, and each may lay eggs. These eggs are buried in soil or leaf litter, and once hatched young snails can grow rapidly – reaching maturity within their first year. 

Muddy Creek AMD Blowout

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Update – March 8th:  Since our original sampling Thursday evening when pH was 3.65, FOC has pulled several sets of Water Quality (WQ) samples in Muddy Creek and the Cheat River downstream of Muddy. On Friday, we deployed our Muddy Creek live reading sonde, which reports live water quality data to FOC staff remotely every ten minutes. Since then, we have seen improvements in WQ, and pH at the mouth of Muddy Creek now rests at 7.10. You can track the improvements at https://wqdatalive.com/public/1128

The good news is – at this time there is no evidence of a fish kill in Cheat River. Based on our conversations with WVDNR, it appears we are out of the weeds in that regard as long as WQ is maintained as pH neutral. While this event will have serious impacts to the stream community that was beginning to reestablish in Muddy Creek, we are fortunate this event was not as extreme as the earlier blowouts that took place in the 1990s. We will continue to monitor impacts in Muddy Creek and the Cheat River mainstem. 

WVDEP have been working hard to contain and treat the acidic water created from the blowout, and our WQ testing shows that the status of Muddy Creek has improved, maintaining a pH level similar to before the blowout. An investigation is currently ongoing to identify the source of the blowout and discuss next steps on preventing a similar event in the future – this is FOC’s biggest concern at the moment in light of climate trends that predict warmer, wetter conditions and more severe flooding events for this area. FOC aims to be at the table during these discussions.

We could not thank you enough for your continued support during this painful event. We will use your donations to advocate for healthier streams, increased protections, and to push our legislators to reauthorize the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act – Abandoned Mine Lands Fee, set to expire in 2021. Without reauthorization, FOC and other groups lose a major funding source to tackle or maintain any AMD treatment sites: a scary thought after the events of last week. 

March 5th:  It is with heavy hearts that we inform our river community that there has been another blowout related to the T&T mine system, and acidic and metal laden water is again flowing through Muddy Creek.  FOC staff noticed the disturbing hue of the water yesterday and found the pH reading 3.65.  pH has dropped in the Canyon at “Decision Rapid” to 5.8, and has stained the river right extensively.  

The WVDEP’s T&T Treatment Facility was not able to handle the burden of the recent precipitation events.  WVDEP released the following press release concerning the blowout – March 5 2020 – DEP investigating blowout at former T&T Mine.  With precipitation projected to occur more often and with greater intensity over the next decade, we are left to wonder how often these events may occur.  For the fish documented in Muddy Creek and the Canyon, this is a major ecological setback.  

This is ever more proof of the risk Abandoned Mine Lands pose to healthy ecosystems, and that our work is not done. 

We will continue to push for restored water quality, innovation, and will not accept this as the status quo for Muddy Creek.  Now more than ever, SMCRA AML reauthorization will be critical to address the longstanding ecological damage continually caused by abandoned mine lands.  We’re not out of the weeds, yet.

Muddy Creek

pH Muddy Creek March 4th, 2021

Downstream of the Muddy Creek & Cheat River Confluence

Muddy Creek Confluence Aerial – Photo by Paul Kinder

Muddy Creek Cheat River Downstream Aerial – Photo by Paul Kinder

Decision Rapid – Cheat River Canyon

Help FOC Request a Public Hearing for an 800 Acre Development along the Big Sandy and Laurel Run

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*FOC staff, with consultation from partners, will submit our final comments by the deadline. They are technical, but that is what is called for. You can read some of FOC’s comments below.  FOC supporters are encouraged to continue to submit public meeting requests and personalize their comments.

*Friends of the Cheat will submit the following comments and others:

 

FOC also has concerns about public access to one of our most beloved areas, an area that many dreamed would become public land one day.  Access will be limited or discontinued to members of the public, such as boaters and Allegheny Trail thru-hikers.  FOC will continue to inquire about access developments.

 

Wonder Falls – Photo by Eric Cain

Wonder Falls – Photo by Jeff Macklin

Big Sandy Creek is a priority area for Friends of the Cheat because of its good water quality, stunning beauty, and paddling opportunities. It is beloved by our river community, including whitewater boaters for its untamed and wild scenery and equally wild ride. Boaters travel from across the world to experience the thrill of navigating the Big Sandy.  Historically impaired by irresponsible resource extraction, we have documented great improvements in water quality to the Big Sandy Creek over the last twenty years. FOC and partners like Trout Unlimited invest in restoration and fish stocking projects throughout the Big Sandy watershed. 
Laurel Run is one of the few unimpaired and forested tributaries to the Big Sandy Creek and hosts a native Brook Trout fishery.
Lack of best management practices or ill-planned development could have a significant negative impact to these streams. Friends of the Cheat is requesting more information on the project through a public hearing in order to provide critical feedback on erosion control, sediment management, and protection of water quality. We are especially concerned because significant construction work in ecologically sensitive areas started before permits were in place.
Please help Friends of the Cheat in promoting best management practices and protection of these streams by requesting a public hearing on this new development.

 

The WV Department of Environmental Protection is receiving public comments on the construction stormwater permit for a large development planned along Big Sandy Creek and Laurel Run in Preston County.

Friends of the Cheat is gathering more information on the permit application and encourages concerned citizens to help request a public hearing by writing to WVDEP before Sunday, March 7, 2021.

You can email WVDEP Sharon Mullins, Permitting Section at: Sharon.A.Mullins@wv.gov

Include your name and contact information and the permit number: WVR111041

Any interested person may submit written comments on the site registration permit application and may request a public hearing by addressing such to the Director of the Division of Water and Waste Management within 30 days of the date of the public notice.  Such comments or requests should be addressed to:

Director, Division of Water and Management, DEP

ATTN:  Sharon Mullins, Permitting Section

601 57th Street SE

Charleston, WV  25304-2345

Comments received within this period will be considered prior to acting on the permit application.  Correspondence should include the name, address and the telephone number of the writer and a concise statement of the nature of the issues raised.  The Director shall hold a public hearing whenever a finding is made, on the basis of requests, that there is a significant degree of public interest on issues relevant to the site registration permit application and this facility’s coverage under the General Permit.  Interested persons may contact the Public Information Office to obtain further information.