Friends of the Cheat Receives $1.1 million from Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative for Mountaineer Trail Network

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Upper Cheat River Water Trail

Today, Friends of the Cheat was awarded $1.1 million by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) on behalf of the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority. The goal of this project is to formally launch the Mountaineer Trail Network as a collection of the best non-motorized trails in the eastern United States for bikes and boats.

Friends of the Cheat and its partners will solidify the newly established Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority, an economic development authority created by the West Virginia Legislature in 2019 to oversee the creation, launch, and operation of the Mountaineer Trail Network.

The core work of this project focuses on developing a regional outdoor economy based on current (and largely undiscovered) trails in our 15-county service area (Barbour, Doddridge, Grant, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Mineral, Monongalia, Preston, Randolph, Ritchie, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur, and Wood). 

Over the next three years, the Authority will select four to eight existing, top-grade trail areas in northern West Virginia for inclusion in the Mountaineer Trail Network. POWER funds will be used to enhance and market these trail areas and nearby tourism businesses as a nationally- and world-renowned tourism destination for biking and boating.  

Additional financial support for the Mountaineer Trail Network is provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Just Transition Fund, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Visit Mountaineer Country Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), Greater Parkersburg CVB, Tucker County CVB, and Marion County CVB.

Mon River Trail South – photo courtesy of Marion County CVB

The project has in-kind support from 33 additional project partners, including 15 county commissions, five CVBs, three county economic development authorities, five county parks and recreation commissions, four state parks, West Virginia University’s Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative and Law School, and 14 trail organizations across the project area. 

This award is part of a $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries. 

“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure—including broadband access. These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.”

Moon Rocks Loop Trail, Yellow Creek Natural Area – photo courtesy of Blackwater Bikes Association

 “This project will provide the marketing, organization, and tourism-focused business development needed to leverage these trails as the world-class assets they truly are,” said Friends of the Cheat Executive Director Amanda Pitzer. “This in turn will directly fuel opportunities for new business startups in tourism, lodging, dining, and other related sectors.”

About the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)

The Appalachian Regional Commission (www.arc.gov) is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia.

Since POWER launched in 2015, ARC has invested more than $287.8 million in 362 projects across 353 coal-impacted counties. The nearly $46.4 million awarded today is projected to create/retain over 9,187 jobs, attract nearly $519.5 million in leveraged private investments, and be matched by $59.2 million in additional public and private funds across the Region. 

ARC is working with Chamberlin/Dunn LLC, a third-party research firm, to closely monitor, analyze, and evaluate these investments. A new report, published today in conjunction with the announcement, found that projects funded through POWER grants met or exceeded targets for jobs retained and/or created, businesses created, workers trained, and revenues increased. Chamberlin/Dunn is continuing to monitor POWER investments and make recommendations to ARC for ongoing programmatic efficiencies.


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:

 

  • The permit application does not have any tributaries to Laurel Run displayed, symbolized, or labeled in their plans even though they fall within the limit of disturbance and greater project area, which is very misleading in relation to the number of stream crossings proposed. WVDEP should require these tributaries to be included in the plans and review potential impacts on each.

  • There were 52 days in 2020 where precipitation over 24 hours equaled 0.25 inches or greater. The signatories and those held liable to enforce the SWPPP, Groundwater Protection Plan (GPP), and requirements affiliated with the NPDES Construction Stormwater permit are addressed to Shepherdstown, WV, an approximate 2 hours and 30 minute drive away from the project site, and Cornelius, North Carolina, an approximate 6 hour drive away from the project site. Who will be on the ground in a daily capacity to administer and enforce the regulations related to the SWPP, GPP, and requirements affiliated with the NPDES Construction Stormwater permit?

  • There are already Notices of Violation issued by WVDEP on this project. Miles of road were cleared, graded, and constructed without any permits in place that are required by law. This includes two stream crossings that were built over Laurel Run and a tributary, with no assessments for potential impacts to these streams or review to determine if the crossings are appropriately sized. We are requesting that WVDEP, WVDNR, Army Corps of Engineers, and the WV Department of Transportation review these crossings to determine if they are adequately sized for integrity of water quality, aquatic organism passage, and structural safety.

  • As it stands currently, this permit application vastly lacks the appropriate sediment and erosion controls to prevent degradation of water quality to Laurel Run and Big Sandy Creek. The WVDEP should enforce its requirement of additional sediment and erosion controls, such as sediment basins.

  • Property owners within the development are responsible for their own construction activities. Will property owners be able to move forward with their individual construction during construction of the activities proposed under Permit Application Number WVR11104? If so, how will inspectors be able to determine sources of erosion and/or sediment if projects are occurring concurrently?

  • Based on independent calculations, there is reason to believe there will be a greater than 10% increase in post-development peak discharge due to exaggerations in drainage areas in the permit application. The calculations in the application should be reviewed in detail by the WVDEP to determine their accuracy.

  • There is no formal Groundwater Protection Plan (GPP) document attached.  Will the Applicant be required to create and submit a signed GPP document that will be held on site at all times?

  • There are four endangered species within the project boundary. The NPDES permit process, specifically the Source Water Pollution Protection Plan (SWPPP), requires the applicant to list these species and include documentation regarding authorization under the Endangered Species Act, comprehensive site assessments, and/or Best Management Practices that are protective of listed endangered and threatened species and.or critical habitat. The applicant has only provided the species list, but no further documentation. WVDEP should enforce its requirement for the applicant to provide the above information.

  • There are significant cultural resources within the project boundary. A State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) representative or cultural resources consultant should review these resources and determine the best course of action for preservation of these resources.

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.


Fish Tails Tell the Tale

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Article and Photographs by Adam Webster

In June, I joined two Friends of the Cheat staff members to cast lines into the Cheat River at the mouth of Muddy Creek, hoping to catch a bass, trout, walleye, or maybe even a musky. Truth be told, I think we were hoping to catch any sort of fish since Muddy Creek and the section of the Cheat River below its confluence, known as Cheat Canyon, had been considered “dead” for most of the last 25 years. 

Knowing that tens of millions of dollars were spent during that last quarter century to recover water quality in the Cheat River and its tributaries, however, was a promising aspect of our pursuit—we were literally “testing the waters” to see if fish had returned. 

Within the last two years, all indicators suggested that fish were indeed returning into Cheat Canyon and beyond. People sharing photos on social media showed fish caught above and below the Muddy Creek confluence. A photo of a musky as long as a Labrador retriever, caught above Muddy Creek, in Albright, sparked dozens of shares and hundreds of “likes” on social media. I still do a double take when I look at that photo—it’s hard to believe.

It’s hard to believe because the Lower Cheat River was known to be polluted for decades. In 1994, the river grabbed national attention after a series of “blowouts” from a coal mine on Muddy Creek poured millions of gallons of acidic water into Cheat Canyon. The water quality became so bad that in 1995 the Cheat River was listed by American Rivers, a river advocacy group, as one of the top 10 most endangered rivers in the United States. 

When I first experienced the Cheat Canyon in a raft in the early 1990s, the shorelines were indeed stained fluorescent orange and electric white from pollution, known as acid mine drainage. When I mentioned trying to catch a fish in Cheat Canyon while sitting around a campfire one evening long ago, a wise-cracking river guide handed me a bottle of whiskey and said, “You’ve got about as good of a chance catching a fish in a swill of flavored ethanol as you do in the Canyon.” 

My heart sank.

Despite the “whiskey incident,” however, I lugged a fishing pole into Cheat Canyon many times through the years. I wanted to believe that rivers are resilient. I wanted to hold on to a hope that the majesty of the Cheat River wouldn’t always be matched by its tragic condition. I wanted to believe that if I could just catch one fish, maybe things were getting better.   

I didn’t catch a single fish anywhere in Cheat Canyon for nearly a decade —at least not anywhere within a few miles of Muddy Creek, that is.

Wading into the water at the mouth of Muddy Creek on a summer afternoon in 2020 with an expectation of catching a fish made me antsy. In fact, I didn’t even grab my fishing pole. I took my camera instead and let Garrett Richardson (Monitoring Technician) and Owen Mulkeen (Associate Director) do the casting. I just wanted to see it happen. These two guys, along with a long list of other FOC staff and partners past and present—made this recovery happen. This was their moment. Not many people can say that in their lifetime they helped bring a dead river back to life. 

As those two tied lures to their lines and set out to prove what was once impossible, I admired the view looking downstream into Cheat Canyon. Fifteen years prior, I stood in nearly the exact spot surrounded by life-choking sediments and telltale stains of heavy metals caused by acid mine drainage. The pH, or acidity, of water flowing from Muddy Creek into Cheat River back then was, at times, similar to lemon juice or acid rain. The water flowing from Muddy Creek into the Cheat River today, as a result of a nearly $10 million treatment system built by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, is close enough to “normal” that fish and other aquatic organisms should be able to thrive. 

Then it happened. 

I heard a splash behind me. Garrett signaled an excited “fish on” sort of smile while standing in the outflow of Muddy Creek into Cheat River. His line was taught, and his fishing pole went into a bend. As he reeled, a feisty fish slapped its tail on the surface. In that instant, I felt as if we turned the page into a new chapter about the Cheat River.  

As Garrett released a soda can-sized smallmouth bass back into the river and my mind did a rewind on 25 years of what was and what now is, I recalled words and wishes of characters along the way. In the mid-2000s, in interviews with Dave Bassage and Keith Pitzer, both former FOC Executive Directors, they each described a future in which trout thrived in Muddy Creek and that the Cheat River would recover as an intact ecosystem. 

 

“It may well be that I never get to see trout in Muddy Creek in my lifetime,” Bassage said, “but we’re already seeing bass in Cheat Canyon. So, you take your successes where you can find them,” he said. 

Another splish and splash from the corner of my eye and serendipity struck! Garrett was reeling in rainbow trout at the mouth of Muddy Creek.

“We’ll take our successes where we can find them,” I thought to myself.

 As the fishing hour was upon us, Owen landed a couple bass on a fly rod and Garrett moved further up into Muddy Creek and showcased a healthy smallmouth bass. In the weeks after our trip, Garrett caught another bass more than a quarter mile upstream in Muddy Creek.

So, what’s next?

First, I hope that bottles of whiskey will be used to celebrate good days of fishing instead of being used to describe water quality in the Cheat River. 

On a more serious note, FOC needs your continued support. What does “support” mean? It means making financial contributions to the organization and volunteering to help its restoration, recreation, and community development programs succeed into the future. In many ways, this is just the beginning.

What is evident to me is that the recovery of the Cheat River is no longer just a tale about fixing pollution caused in the past, it is a story about the future and not just what will become of the river, but about what the river will become for its communities.


Virtual Cheat Fest 2020 Raffle Item!

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2020 Cheat Fest Donation-Based Raffle Item – Custom Fire Pit by Sam Wilson

$5 for one chance

 

$20 for 6 chances

 

Click Here to Bid!


Monongahela National Forest Celebrates 100 Years of Conservation and Service

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Mouth of Otter Creek – Photo by Adam Webster

“Happy 100th Birthday Monongahela National Forest!  FOC directly benefits from the Monongahela National Forest, as over 30% of our Cheat River watershed is protected by these forested lands.  Without receiving the outstanding water quality that comes from our tributaries protected by the Monongahela National Forest, it is questionable if the Cheat River would have been able to make the recovery it has today.  Some iconic areas protected by the Monongahela National Forest that fall in the Cheat River Watershed include: Dolly Sods Wilderness, Bickle Knob, Cheat Summit Fort, Otter Creek Wilderness, Glady Fork, Laurel Fork Wilderness, Gandy Creek, and Gaudineer Knob to name a few!”  – Madison Ball, FOC Restoration Program Manager

The iconic Bear Rocks Preserve – Dolly Sods Wilderness

April 28 marks the 100-year anniversary (#MNF100) of the establishment of Monongahela National Forest. In 1920, following the passage of the Weeks Act in 1911, President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation designating land purchased for the protection of the Monongahela River as Monongahela National Forest. Since that time, the Forest has grown from an initial 7,200 acres to more than 900,000 acres, all in West Virginia. The Forest continues to benefit the public more than ever by providing recreational opportunities, a wide variety of forest products, and abundant natural resources for all to enjoy.

“We invite everyone to celebrate with us on April 28, in spirit and online, 100 years of caring for the land and serving the public on this National Forest,” said Shawn Cochran, Forest Supervisor. “I’d like to thank the State of West Virginia, our partners, volunteers, as well as past and present Forest Service employees who have served and dedicated themselves over the years to caring for this land that belongs to all of us.”

You can help celebrate the Forest’s birthday online at the following locations:

Be sure to check out the Forest’s website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/mnf for more fun Centennial activities later this year.

Special thanks to the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area for assisting with planning the Forest’s Centennial and sharing information with the public. Learn more about them and link to their social media platforms at https://www.appalachianforestnha.org/.


2020 Spring Sinuosity – 2020 Eternal

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Joey and Chandler

Hey there Cheat River friends. How are you? Overall, I’ve been feeling good during my first global pandemic experience. My day-to-day hasn’t changed that much here in rural West Virginia. The biggest adjustment has been working from home, and I’m thankful to my co-workers and colleagues for their commitment and flexibility during this transition. I miss seeing my friends, but I’m talking to my mom more. There are baby goats in the pasture next door, and just watching them brings me joy. I miss our big gardens, and I wish we weren’t looking for a house to buy right now, but we will figure it out. Heck, I remembered how to cook!

I was overcome with sadness when the truth-saying-troubadour John Prine passed away last week from Covid-19. FOC alum Ellie Bell concurred that he was “good” and losing him meant losing a bit of good in this world. I let those feelings snowball and was soon at my lowest point of that day/week/month – what day is it anyway?

From those I’ve been communicating with, this roller coaster of emotion sounds common. As you can likely imagine, this composition has been hard for me to write. I’m sad that Cheat Fest is cancelled, and the challenges that lie ahead for FOC are daunting, but I am confident they are do-able, because we have all of you.

I’ve been thinking more about people who don’t have a support system. This crisis has highlighted vast inequalities in our society and failures in our systems. We aren’t just staying home and sewing masks, we are figuring out how to feed hungry kids, the legal way to administer telemedicine, and how to communicate with and care for our seniors. And what about those who are entirely left out and discriminated against? I wish I could do more.

I have reduced my news intake, but I have been hearing a lot about getting “back to normal” lately. I’m hopeful normal will be better for everyone. What will that path look like, and how do we know if we are even on it? Back to “normal?” I want to go forward, I want to go downstream – don’t you?

I call this column Sinuosity. A river’s sinuosity is its tendency to meander back and forth across its floodplain over time. A river with a high sinuosity would have an “S” path, winding back and forth. I think this is the kind of path we are on right now, as individuals and as a society. As our stream path moves across the landscape, it leaves behind evidence of where the river once was. Like oxbow lakes or scars of rubble, we have evidence of our prior paths we can examine. But, unlike nature, we can get out of these paths, these ruts that take us back to almost the same place we were before.

We have a unique opportunity to live more deliberately during this time. We can create new, healthier, happier paths. Many of my friends are taking hold of this opportunity – doing a cleanse, organizing old photos, getting a new puppy. They hope to create new habits and come out of this different – different on their own terms versus letting an obstruction direct their path.

I love spring in West Virginia. It is a time of growth and hope. The red buds along the Narrows are popping. FOC projects are still popping, too. Despite 2020 being off to a really, REALLY awful start, I am so fortunate to be happy, healthy, and working with Friends of the Cheat. I hope to connect with many of you during virtual Cheat Fest week. Tune into my virtual Education Eddy episode to learn about our progress on removing the Albright dam and to literally “see” what else I’ve been working on these last few months.

Stay safe.


April is Clean Up Preston Month!

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FOC is partnering with the Preston County Chamber of Commerce BAD Buildings Committee to encourage Preston County residents to clean-up their local roadsides and individual homes and properties during Clean-Up Preston Month!

FOC staff will be participating individually and with our pandemic isolation partners on Earth Day – Wed. April 22nd.  Join in by organizing your own safe pickup and tag us on Facebook @friendsofthecheat or Instagram @cheatriverfriends.  

Roadside clean-up supplies including bags and pickers are available by calling Preston County Litter Control Officer Jay Sowers at (304) 698-5594. Participants may also use their own bags. Please gather bags/debris to a single, easy access area.  For collection, please promptly contact
Officer Sowers at (304) 698-5594.

CONTEST

Safe at home with time for projects around your own home, or want to do something nice for an essential worker’s home while they continue working to ensure the safety of us all? .

Take a “before” photo of an area that needs some cleaning or maintenance, then take an “after” photo after you’ve improved the area. Post it on Facebook and/or Instagram with #cleanuppreston @prestonchamber or @friendsofthecheat.

The Preston County Chamber will select four winners (!) who will receive a gift certificate to a local restaurant offering take-out, courtesy of the Preston County Chamber of Commerce. .

It’s a WIN-WIN! We can support local restaurants, enjoy a cleaner, happier community and show our pride in the place we are so lucky to call home. #prestoncountyproud.

Please stay close to home, and conduct clean-up activities only with your families and isolation-buddies following CDC recommended physical distancing guidelines. Do not organize large groups or carpools. Groups violating these rules will be eliminated from the contest.

For collection, please promptly contact
Officer Sowers at (304) 698-5594.

Also, for self-disposal the Kingwood Transfer Station is currently open Monday-Friday from 7:00 am – 3:00 pm with no loads accepted later than 2:30 pm. Items not accepted are: yard waste, burnt lumber, liquids and appliances with freon. Contact the Transfer Station at (304) 329-3235.


Hello from Amanda’s home “office”!

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It has been a few anxious days since we announced the cancellation of the 26th Cheat Fest. I wanted to send a message that everyone at Friends of the Cheat is doing alright, and to let you know the changes we are making in our day to day operations.

FOC OFFICE

Friends of the Cheat staff are mixing it up – working from home and taking turns at the office. Meetings are now calls, and I’m quickly learning new communication tools and their quirks. I think all of our pets are enjoying the strange new flexibility. With precautions, FOC field work and construction projects continue. We have plenty to do! If you need to reach us, please send us an email or give us a call at 304-329-3621 instead of stopping by the office.

2020 FESTIVAL

All in-person aspects of the 2020 festival have been cancelled. This includes the 5K and downriver race. We are making adaptations to certain aspects of the festival such as shifting to a virtual 5K and hosting an online silent auction. Stay current at www.cheatfest.org where you can still purchase festival tees with the awesome artwork of our buddy John K Victor.

RIVER ACCESS SITES

FOC owned and managed river access sites are open for use following CDC guidelines. However, we have closed the bathrooms at the festival site Cheat Canyon put-in. We are discouraging the gathering of groups over 10 and will monitor site use and make changes as necessary. Stay well within your skill level while undertaking any risky activity during this time – you don’t want to take up a hospital bed or distract emergency responders because you injured yourself. 

Further, stay close to home with any outdoor activity. Traveling to that special camping spot or whitewater run exposes locals in rural communities with already limited health care. Think about how your actions could impact others. This article from Paddling Magazine can help – but please don’t explore new locations right now.  And remember, always stay 6 feet apart from your companions, on land and in the water!

With certain precautions, getting outside is a great way to stay active, and connected. This article, shared originally by our friends at OVEC, reminds us that there are many lessons to be learned from nature. We may have to be physically distanced but we can still stay connected – like the trees in the forest.

RESOURCES

I am humbled by how others are managing big changes in their lives. For those with children home from school, FOC has gathered some fun, educational resources to help you:

  • Cheat Fest art coloring book printable pages can be downloaded here. Share your masterpieces on social media with the hashtag #colorsofthecheat

FOC Coloring Book Pages

  • Cacapon Institute’s Watershed E-School has lots of fun, online activities for primary and secondary age students: https://www.cacaponinstitute.org/teach/watershed-e-school/
  • The National Wildlife Federation is offering free online access to Ranger Rick – my favorite magazine as a kid! Visit www.rangerrick.org for digital versions of Ranger Rick magazines, outdoor activities, animal crafts, and more.
  • Spring is in the air and there is a lot of action on a variety of Wildlife Web Cams. Check out the NCTC Eagle Cam out of Shepherdstown, WV managed by FOC founding Board member Randy Robinson. For views of a variety of critters from puffins to pandas, check out Aubudon’s top 10 wildlife cams.

In closing, the pandemic highlights many underlying inequities in our society. With that in mind, I’d like to remind you of two important responsibilities we have as citizens and adaptations we can take to keep ourselves and other safe:

  • Mail in your request for an absentee ballot for the May 12 Primary to your County Clerk. Note that you are requesting to vote from home due to the medical reason of the coronavirus outbreak. Protect the health of poll workers.
  • Take the 2020 Census online at my2020census.gov or mail in the form your household should be getting in the mail this week. Protect the health of Census workers. Federal funds to states for things like infrastructure and education depend on the count.

Stay safe friends.

Sincerely,

Amanda


Funding Awarded to Study the Removal of the Albright Dam on the Cheat River

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Photo by Joey Kimmet

Friends of the Cheat has been awarded $100,000 from the DTE Foundation to study the removal of the Albright Power Station Dam. Other than the dam at Cheat Lake, this obsolete dam, located 29.3 miles upstream of Cheat Lake, is the only barrier to aquatic passage for migrating species of fish, such as walleye, throughout the entire 78.3 mile-long Cheat River main stem. The Albright Power Station Dam reduces water quality by allowing water to slow and stagnate and is a dangerous hazard to boaters and anglers. The dam is a component of a First Energy coal-fired power plant decommissioned in September 2012. The pool created by the dam once fed the plant’s cooling towers. The plant and dam remain as relics. Removal will eliminate the burdens of maintenance and repair along with any safety concerns. 

“Preserving our environment – land, air and water – is a priority for the DTE Energy Foundation,” said Lynette Dowler, president of the DTE Energy Foundation. “We’re proud to support Friends of the Cheat in their work to remove a dam that will improve aquatic life and enhance fishing along this beautiful waterway.” Over the last 25 years, Cheat River water quality has vastly improved. Fish can be found throughout the entirety of the river, and populations in Cheat Lake show continued growth and diversity with over 45 species logged. Removing the Albright Power Station Dam would improve river habitat for aquatic life, including pollution-sensitive walleye and smallmouth bass. Dam removal would also improve water quality for once-present species, including the Eastern Hellbender and freshwater mussels, and could act as a catalyst for restoring and reintroducing these sensitive species in the Cheat River.

Once a liability, the Cheat River is now an asset fueling the recreation renaissance throughout the region. Whitewater paddlers have returned and outfitters are seeing renewed interest. The Cheat River and Lake are hosting annual bass fishing tournaments as well as competitive Global whitewater events. With the dam removed, paddlers could navigate the river 162 miles from its headwaters on Shavers Fork near Snowshoe, WV north to Cheat Lake. Without the dam, both outfitters and private paddlers would benefit through the expansion of access sites and connected river miles enabling new types of trips and experiences (tubing, SUP, multi-day trips, races, etc.)

“Removing the Albright Dam, if found feasible, is the next logical step in our mission to restore the Cheat River,” said Madison Ball, Restoration Program Manager for FOC.  “FOC has dedicated 25 years to restoring the Cheat from acid mine drainage, and now we are beginning to reap the rewards; improved water quality and healthy pH, a diversity of fish species recolonizing in the river — including acid-sensitive smallmouth bass and walleye, and renewed interest in river recreation.  Removing this barrier allows the river to flow naturally, rather than slow artificially and drop out sediment and other material, and fish and other aquatic life can migrate upstream and downstream as needed in particular life stages.”

A qualified consulting firm will be hired to conduct a reconnaissance level study of the Albright Power Dam. Results of the study will provide information on the current structural integrity of the dam, how much sediment has accumulated behind the dam and its composition, a mapping of the bottom of the river, and calculated anticipated flows. The finished report will also include conceptual plan drawings and two potential options for removal. Additional project highlights include using environmental DNA technology to survey the Cheat River for Eastern Hellbender and collaborating with WVDNR on preliminary fish surveys.

According to The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, “WVDNR has documented incredible improvements to the fisheries of the Cheat River watershed due to improved water quality. Consequently, recreational opportunities such as fishing and kayaking have dramatically increased. To further improve the fisheries and recreational opportunities on Cheat River, WVDNR is in favor of removing the Albright Power Station Dam. The WVDNR anticipates that riverine habitat and angling opportunities on one of the premier smallmouth bass fishing rivers in northern West Virginia will be improved. Additionally, an ever-increasing walleye population in Cheat Lake will have the opportunity to expand upstream past Albright once the dam is removed, potentially providing another recreational opportunity for Cheat River anglers.” 

The potential economic and environmental benefits of removing the dam prompted the interest and support of all 4 County Commissions touched by the project, upstream to downstream: Randolph, Tucker, Preston, and Monongalia.

Public involvement is a critical part of this project. FOC and project partners will host the first public open house for community members to learn more and share ideas this fall. 


Friends of The Cheat Receives $50,000 from Appalachian Regional Commission to create a Preston County Trail Plan.

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Friends of The Cheat was awarded $50,000 by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for a technical assistance project that will result in the creation of the first comprehensive Trail Plan within the newly formed Mountaineer Trail Network. Centered in Preston County, West Virginia, this countywide Trail Plan will map all existing trail resources, highlight existing connection gaps, and identify trail routes that would link existing amenities to other key trails and recreation hubs in the region. As the first Trail Plan of its kind within the Mountaineer Trail Network, this plan will serve as a model to be replicated in the network’s other nine counties.

“Friends of The Cheat is excited about our first grant award from ARC and particularly eager to begin work on expanding the recreational opportunities in Preston County and beyond. We are proud to partner with Downstream Strategies and PCPARC on this comprehensive project that will lead to the creation of a trail plan template for other surrounding counties to adopt and integrate into the larger Mountaineer Trail Network. Recreational trails and the promotion of outdoor recreation are a path forward for coal-transitioning economies, and we are honored to lead the way.”
Owen Mulkeen
Associate Director of Friends of The Cheat

Today’s announcement is one of 54 investments totaling $44.4 million via ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, a congressionally funded opportunity targeting federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production. Additional support for Friends of The Cheat’s project is provided by FOC’s RE/CREATE AML Pilot Grant. Programmatic and marketing expenses for the Preston Trail Towns Program, which provides critical support to build local capacity for recreation and tourism development, directly complements the focus of the ARC project.

“I congratulate Friends of The Cheat for being an FY 2019 POWER grantee, and commend them on the leadership they have shown in their community,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “POWER grants are playing a critical role in supporting coal-impacted communities in the Appalachian Region as they diversify economies, invest in growth-oriented infrastructure, train a next-generation workforce, and ingrain resiliency and hope into their local fabric. Projects like this help ensure a prosperous future for Appalachia.”

About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission (www.arc.gov) is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.


RFP for Design & Remediation Services Including Licensed Remediation Specialist

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Issue Date:                                         April 11, 2018

Questions Due in Writing:           Friday, April 27, 2018 at 5:00pm EST

Submission Deadline:                   Tuesday, May 8, 2018 at 4:00pm EST

Summary

Friends of Cheat (FOC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Kingwood, West Virginia, dedicated to restoring, preserving, and promoting the outstanding natural qualities of the Cheat River watershed.  FOC is working in partnership with the West Virginia State Rail Authority (WVSRA) to purchase and develop rail corridor formerly owned by CSXT for conversion to a non-motorized, recreational rail-trail. FOC seeks proposals from qualified consultant teams, including a WV Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Licensed Remediation Specialist (LRS), to provide design and engineering services for the development of a plans, specifications, and engineering package (PS&E) for the trail corridor identified as BAJ 3.0 and BAJ 11.7, Manheim to Caddell.

The Cheat River Rail-Trail project is funded in part by grants from the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails Program administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways. Design and control of the project must be in conformance with the guidelines of the Recreational Trails Program and all applicable State and Federal Regulations. All work will be in accordance with all pertaining Federal and State laws, rules, and regulations.

View the full RFP here:  FOC RFP_CheatRT_2018


Sinuosity – Into the Canyon Winter Edition 2018

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I had the pleasure of attending part of WVDEP’s Office of Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation’s annual staff training event at the end of January. Director Rob Rice invited me to make a presentation to his team, and David Petry, our Program Manager, was able to attend as well. The event conveniently followed Preston County Day at the Legislature, but before I made the trip east over I-64 to the MSHA training facility in Beaver, I stopped by the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences. Kingwood native Nathan Jones works for the Clay Center and encouraged me to visit after spotting me in the Capitol during lunch. The center’s exhibits are ever-evolving; Water Works and the Maier Foundation Music Studio will turn anyone into a giggly kid.  The hands-on fun proved to be just what I needed after a long day at the Capitol.  Once I arrived in Beaver, I was pleasantly surprised to find more play happening at the training center—DEP staff were engaged in a pretty intense game of basketball.  I didn’t have gym clothes so I stood on the sideline in my dress and boots as a spectator. I’m not sure whose team won, but next year I know I want John Knight and Sheila Vulkovich on my team. I always felt Rob was a good manager and confident leader, and having this opportunity to interact with the AML crew in a more casual atmosphere only reinforced that notion.

It was not lost on me that David and I were the only non-agency employees in attendance.  Also, I’ll admit that the given title of my presentation, “Thoughts on AML from Outside the Agency,” was unique and a little intimidating.  I don’t sweat most speeches, but I felt I owed it to these people to honor their work, while also voicing FOC’s concerns around policy interpretation and proposed DEP rule changes.  AML working more closely with the Office of Special Reclamation as well as the reorganization of WVDEP (which we believe is a very good thing), I also took the opportunity to reinforce FOC’s position and concerns surrounding in-stream versus at-source water treatment in Muddy Creek.  

Deputy Director Mike Sheehan reported that the long-anticipated T&T treatment system, on Rt. 26 outside Albright, went active in late December. The multi-million dollar system is currently treating water from the old T&T site as well as water from “Ruthbell #3”/Preston Energy UO-235, which is no longer flowing completely untreated into Muddy Creek. Sheehan also shared that DEP received their final approval from EPA on the variance to water quality standards they requested on Fickey Run, Glade Run, and Martin Creek.  Understandably, FOC still has some heartburn over the variance method, as we believe circumventing the Clean Water Act and drastically lowering pollution limits for this entire watershed is a bad precedent to set.  

However, looking downstream, FOC has two more pressing concerns which I shared with the group. First, maintaining consistent treatment is necessary to realize full restoration of aquatic communities in lower Muddy Creek. Stream bugs and fish need clean water all the time. This will become increasingly more important as macroinvertebrates and fish return to the creek. One mishandled high water flush or a malfunction in technology (as seen on the Blackwater River in 2014) could wipe out progress. The second concern is rooted in the intention of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), which was to ensure that each coal company posted a bond sufficient enough to cover the costs of reclamation.  Bonds are not created by throwing darts at a wall – they are supposed to be estimates that ensure total reclamation, including expensive at-source acid mine drainage (AMD) treatment.  The variance to water quality standards allows DEP an alternative approach to at-source AMD treatment. For example, instead of engineering, constructing, and maintaining 10 treatment systems, they are now able to treat in-stream, constructing and maintaining 1 in-stream doser and the collection pipeline to T&T. This also means fewer NPDES-regulated sampling points and the resources needed to collect, analyze, manage, and report data.

Looking at these example figures and applying a 20 year timeframe, one can quickly see the huge cash savings. And don’t forget, in reality, DEP is liable for treatment in perpetuity.

At-Source [10 systems @ $1M capital construction + (10 systems @ $100K/year operations and maintenance for 20 years)] = $30,000,000

In-Stream [1 in-stream doser @ $500K + $1M pipeline construction + ($350K/year operations and maintenance for 20 years)] = $8,500,000

This is great cost-savings, but who is really getting the deal?  The monies collected and dedicated to funding this clean-up program come from the coal industry – the bond pool and a special reclamation tax on active coal mining.

We have heard over and over that the motivation behind this strategy is restoration, and we do believe that DEP staff are committed to full-restoration of lower Muddy Creek, and that this approach will get us much closer than the old way of doing things.  However, considering the work FOC does each day, cleaning up impacts from the under-regulated days of mining in WV, we are suspect that these savings are also a much-needed crutch to the shrinking bond pool, and WV’s coal industry.  We believe this goes against the intention of SMCRA, and that someone should be paying more attention to the differences between at-source treatment and operation and maintenance cost estimates and what is actually being spent.  Because, in the end, the coal industry should be paying the full cost for the damages they have levied on our lands, waters, and people.

Likewise, we are suspect of the rules changes proposed in Senate Bill 163 (“The Bad” in our cover story). Our leaders are working to blur the lines and remove the definition of “completion of reclamation” from WV State Code. They assert its use in code is inconsistent, and therefore, confusing. The definition provides that reclamation is complete only when “all applicable effluent and applicable water quality standards are met.” (38CSR2-2,37).  Unless the agency intends to allow operators to complete reclamation without meeting all applicable effluent standards and limitations, why not just clarify this definition instead of deleting it?

Instead of just getting rid of water quality limits and legal definitions, we should clarify them and reaffirm our commitments to restoring streams and meeting the expectations of both SMCRA and the Clean Water Act.  What the rule changes in SB163 really feel like are an underhanded means to allow for more pollution, less treatment, and to prevent citizen lawsuits under the Clean Water Act.


Here’s what we know about Senate Bill 270

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A bill to allow commercial logging in West Virginia’s State Parks, Senate Bill 270, was introduced in the WV Legislature at the request of Governor Justice. This bill would end an 80-year ban on logging in West Virginia’s State Parks.

There has been a quick public outcry against this bill as many folks have an immediate, emotional reaction to cutting trees in West Virginia’s precious State Parks. In an effort to educate the public on this complex issue, Friends of the Cheat has done their best, in a short time frame, to pull together factual information on this matter with support from our partners at West Virginians for Public Lands.

If you have already made up your mind that commercial logging in State Parks is not good for West Virginia contact the Governor now, and tell him you oppose lifting the logging ban.

If you are not so sure, read on…

The State Code (section 20-5-3) says that the purpose of the West Virginia Parks and Recreation section, is “to promote conservation by preserving and protecting natural areas of unique or exceptional scenic, scientific, cultural, archaeological or historic significance and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for the citizens of this state and its visitors.”

Section 20-1-7 says that valid reasons for acquiring state park lands are “for the purpose of preserving scenic, aesthetic, scientific, cultural, archaeological or historical values or natural wonders, or providing public recreation.”

Logging does not serve any of these purposes. Logging operations reduce the scenic and aesthetic values of a forest, interfere with recreational use, and can degrade or obscure scientific, cultural, archaeological, and historical values. Therefore, logging our State Forests contravenes the mission of the Parks and Recreation section, and betrays the values for which the land was acquired. Allowing logging in our State Park system would fundamentally change the nature of that system. Is that really what we want to do?

West Virginia’s public lands are about 13% of the total forest land in the state*, and 98% of those public lands are currently open to logging**. There is little to be gained, and much to be lost from this proposal.

WV Code citations

*WV Division of Forestry Resource Assessment 2010, pg. 25

**WV Department of Commerce website

For more information, check out the Save Our State Parks webpage.

 


Reflecting on the successes and lessons learned in 2017 – and looking forward to 2018

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Stay up to date with Friends of the Cheat by reading our State of the Cheat River Watershed Trifold.

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2017 was a rollercoaster year for Friends of the Cheat.  Our most successful Whitewater Access campaign to date was followed by the coldest, wettest Cheat River Festival ever, with unbelievable mud and low attendance.

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Two Meet the Cheat events put record numbers of paddlers on the Cheat River.

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While HB 2506, WV drinking water policy changes, gave us nightmares.  

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Through these ups and downs, you, our incredible core of supporters, have remained steady.  Your support empowers us to fight for clean water and continue our mission: to restore, preserve, and promote the outstanding natural qualities of the Cheat River watershed.  Your financial donations are integral to our organization; they literally keep our boots on the ground, and our lights on.

Without your sustaining support, Friends of the Cheat could never have grown into the multifaceted, successful nonprofit it is now.  Without you, many of our efforts wouldn’t get off the ground.  Here’s a glimpse of what your financial contributions supported in just the last year:

  • New water monitoring kits for our CAPABLE volunteer base – which doubled!  CAPABLE is our citizen science initiative that allows us to keep a watchful eye on at-risk streams through volunteer participation.  
  • Our new Bacteria Monitoring Program, testing 9 popular swimming sites along the mainstem of the Cheat River, from Parsons to Cheat Lake.  Look for our results at theswimguide.org.
  • Cleared culverts and ditches on both Rockville and Bull Run roads – resulting in improved access to the Cheat Canyon and the Big Sandy.
  • Our largest Meet the Cheat attendance to date – with more than 300 paddlers celebrating outdoor recreation on the Cheat River Water Trail.
  • The expansion of our Education and Outreach program, which allowed us to lead over 300 incoming WVU freshmen in community service around the Cheat River watershed.

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FOC has great things planned for 2018!  We are adopting the northernmost 28 miles of the Allegheny Trail, West Virginia’s longest foot trail, which runs 330 miles from the Mason-Dixon Line in Bruceton Mills south to the WV-VA border.  FOC will be responsible for the maintenance and improvement of our portion – including 12 miles of true hiking trail along the Cheat Canyon.  To do this, we will be expanding our Outreach and Education program even more by leading over 600 Adventure WV students in trail-work and community service over the coming summer!  Your donations will help purchase the equipment we need to perform the work, and the staff time needed to organize and lead it.

Join FOC in our dedication to safe, healthy water by becoming a sustaining member of Friends of the Cheat.  And please ask what we can do for you!  We would be happy to present at your local church, your child’s classroom, your clubs and associations.  A watershed includes everything within its boundaries, including the people that live and recreate there and we strive to support you too!  Together, we can continue to improve this beloved water source that means so much to all of us.

 

 


FOC Notes the 40th Anniversary of the Surface Mining Reclamation & Control Act

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“Rebirth has begun, but there is more work to be done” 

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2016 Photo of the mouth of AMD impacted Muddy Creek.

 

Thursday, August 3rd marks the 40th anniversary of our country’s landmark coal mining law, the Surface Mining Reclamation & Control Act, known commonly as SMCRA (pronounced “smak-rah”).  SMCRA was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on this day in 1977.  SMCRA regulates the environmental effects of coal mining and its passage created the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE).  OSMRE develops regulations, funds state regulatory and reclamation efforts, and oversees individual state regulatory programs.  SMCRA also created two programs, the abandoned mine land program for reclamation of mined sites initiated before 1977 and a second program to regulate active coal mining.

Cheat River AMLs

NOTE: 111 unabated AMLs out of 358 in Cheat – over two-thirds of the abandoned mine lands identified in the Cheat River watershed have yet to be cleaned up.

 

OSMRE was one of FOC’s first partners in the River of Promise.  OSMRE continues to support FOC’s restoration efforts in the Cheat River watershed through ROP engagement and acid mine drainage remediation project funding through the OSMRE Watershed Cooperative Agreement Program. FOC also works closely with the state programs created by SMCRA, WVDEP’s Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation (OAMLR) and Office of Special Reclamation (OSR).

Partners in the River of Promise rely on funds provided by SMCRA to continue remediation of the 342 acid mine drainage seeps emanating from abandoned mine lands in the Cheat River watershed. Significant progress has been made in the last 40 years to restore life to the Cheat River, yet there is more work to be done. Without reauthorization of SMCRA in 2022, all the progress that has been fought for so hard for could be lost.

 

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AMD pouring out of Lick Run Portals

 


Happy West Virginia Day from the Cheat River!

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Happy West Virginia Day from the Majestic Cheat River and Friends of the Cheat!  As West Virginians, we know that one of the most wonderful aspects of our state is the grandeur of our rivers and forests.  We rely on the health of our water sources and the agencies that protect them.  FOC is proud to report that after 23 years of hard work – the Cheat River is reborn and booming!  

FOC is focused on more than water monitoring; we aim to encourage the public to experience the beauty of our historic waterway for themselves, on the Cheat River Water Trail.  FOC and the Cheat River Water Trail (CRWT) Committee hosted two “Meet the Cheat” paddling events in early June, both with attendance numbers doubling, nearly tripling, since 2016.  Collectively, over 300 participants enjoyed the scenic beauty of the Cheat River Water Trail.   

On June 3rd, 2017, National Trails Day, FOC and CRWT hosted the 2nd annual Preston County Meet the Cheat paddling event in Rowlesburg, WV.  A record 83 attendees floated 3.2 miles from Riverview Lounge to the Rowlesburg Park, where the were met with a complimentary picnic catered by the Rowlesburg Park, and live music by Paul Burger.  Registration fees for the first 25 participants needing boats and gear were free, thanks to a generous donation from the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission.  Kayaks and canoes were provided by Blackwater Outdoor Adventures (BOA), along with paddling gear and a free shuttle from the Rowlesburg Park to the put-in.  

On June 10th, 2017, FOC and the CRWT partnered for the second year with the West Virginia Land Trust and Blackwater Outdoor Adventures to host the 5th annual Tucker County Meet the Cheat paddling event.  This year – an astonishing 230 registered participants took to the Cheat River to float from the newly renovated Holly Meadows public access point to St. George, nearly 8 miles.  The record set in 2016 was just over 100 paddlers.  At the post paddle party at BOA, participants enjoyed donated salads from White Grass Cafe, pizza and wings from CJ’s Pizzeria, and homemade goodies by CRWT committee members Dave and Pam Ruediger and Janet Preston.  Live music was provided by members of the LocalMotive, a Davis-based trio.  CRWT volunteer extraordinaire Janet Preston collected prizes for a donation-based raffle from many local businesses.  

FOC and the CRWT are beyond pleased with the level of public participation at both events! The Meet the Cheats are the main fundraisers for the CRWT; money raised at the events are used to maintain and improve public access points, print maps and brochures, and fund CRWT merchandise.  The goal of these events are to introduce the public to the fantastic recreational value of the river in their backyard, and bring communities together in celebration of our public spaces.  The Cheat River is just one of many gems in our great state – so show your pride in our home this week by visiting your favorite spot of Wild and Wonderful West Virginia!


A New Chapter for the River of Promise

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Sludge Pond at the T&T Treatment Site

Most of you know the River of Promise story, or at least the highlights.  One pivotal chapter of this story involves the now-infamous T&T mine.  In the spring of 1994, the hillside near the straightaway along Route 26 known as Deep Hollow blew out, sending thousands of gallons of highly concentrated acid mine drainage pollution into Muddy Creek, and ultimately the Cheat River Canyon.  The Cheat River and nine of its lower tributaries were already severely degraded by acid mine drainage (AMD) from decades of irresponsible and under-regulated mining activity; this high-profile event was the final blow to the river, turning its waters orange and leaving a bathtub ring of iron-laden sludge throughout the Cheat Canyon sixteen miles to Cheat Lake.  The T&T blowout in 1994, followed by a series of pollution events in 1995, brought the river national attention, catalyzed the formation of Friends of the Cheat, and spawned the coalition known as the River of Promise.

The incident at T&T was determined to be the result of illegal activity.  Ultimately the operation’s bonds were forfeited and the WV DEP Office of Special Reclamation took over water treatment responsibility at the site.  Since 1995, this treatment facility, perched atop a narrow hillside above Muddy Creek, has been a field trip and tour stop for many community leaders, agency officials, and over 3,000 WVU and Preston High School students.  Mining and reclamation experts from all over the world have visited the site, facilitated by WVU’s National Mine Land Reclamation Center.  The small collection pond brims with bright orange water and the facility walls are covered with faded mine maps.  But, just over the hill, major activity is taking place as contractors are busy constructing a new $8M AMD treatment facility.  Ten years in the making, this system is designed to treat up to 4,200 gallons per minute (with the capability to pass up to 7,600 gallons per minute), delivering up to 10,000 pounds of lime each hour (although the system will treat with lime slurry made on site).  The facility will have state-of-the-art telemetry sensors that monitor water quality and adjust treatment in real-time.  Two 80 foot clarifiers will settle out metal-laden sludge, which will be pumped back into the mine workings.  Backup geotubes will be incorporated into the site for excess sludge storage.

In addition to water emanating from the main T&T site, the new facility will also treat water from “Ruthbell #3” (Preston Energy #UO-235).  FOC was instrumental in the US Office of Surface Mining’s determination that the water from Ruthbell #3 was the result of a bonded mining operation, not an abandoned mine land, and therefore under the treatment responsibility of WV DEP.  This water is a significant source of impairment to Muddy Creek, with up to 30% of Muddy’s pollution load attributed to this single source.

River of Promise partners have a shared goal of restoring water quality in the lower 3.4 miles of Muddy Creek.  This section is an important target because of the opportunity to reconnect lower Muddy and the Cheat main stem with the healthy, active trout fishery above Muddy’s confluence with Martin Creek near Woolen Mill Road.  However, the improvements to T&T and the inclusion of Ruthbell #3 waters in the new system will result in improvements to water quality in lower Muddy Creek, but still not enough for full restoration.  The majority of acid mine drainage pollution in this watershed is from abandoned mine lands, specifically heavy aluminum loads from Glade Run and even more concentrated pollution from Fickey Run.  To maximize water quality improvements resulting from WV DEP treatment operations, WV DEP is implementing a novel watershed based approach using in-stream lime dosing.  FOC reported on WV DEP’s in-stream dosing treatment approach in the Spring 2016 issue of Into the Canyon.

WV DEP found that this approach would not remove enough iron from Fickey Run to meet its in-stream NPDES permit limit, thus also failing to restore the lower 3.4 miles of Muddy Creek.  WV DEP’s Office of Special Reclamation couldn’t legally justify funding the entire treatment of Fickey waters.  FOC couldn’t finance long-term treatment.  A new partner was needed…and secured!  WV DEP has found a water remediation partner in Southwestern Energy Company, an-Oklahoma based energy company developing deep shale gases in Southwest Appalachia.  Southwestern’s corporate responsibility program includes a gallon for gallon treatment commitment—for every gallon of water the company uses they “clean-up” a gallon of water.  The company has constructed acid mine drainage systems on abandoned mine lands in Pennsylvania, and funded a long-term treatment trust fund for ongoing operations and maintenance costs.  Southwestern is committed to financing and building approximately 9,000 linear foot AMD collection pipeline to convey the toxic waters of Fickey Run to the T&T treatment facility.  Southwestern will also finance a long-term treatment trust fund to supplement expensive operations and maintenance costs.

The construction of the new facility and infrastructure is an exciting time for restoration partners.  FOC asked veteran WV DEP Field Technician John Loughry what he thinks about the new treatment system.  John has cared for the T&T site since November 3, 1995.  If you have visited the T&T facility you have probably met John and heard his vivid recollection of those first few months of treatment; Monitoring Coordinator Ellie Bell recalls her undergrad visit to the site as one the best field trips she ever attended.  John knows the quirks of the T&T mine maybe better than anyone, referring to the site as his “problem child”.  John has learned that you can’t beat Mother Nature, and some days you do the best you can and it’s still not enough–but you can’t let that get you down.  He is proud of what he has been able to do at T&T, including fostering a fish population in the treatment pond over the hill at T&T #3.  Over 25 years of data and John’s experience were instrumental in assisting the engineers who designed the new treatment system.  When the new treatment system goes online John will not be turning the knobs or testing the waters–the new facility is too high tech for his nature, and he laughs when he reports that they didn’t even have computers when he started his job.  When asked if he will miss caring for his problem child, John surely didn’t shed any tears but said he will miss being a part of the long-awaited full-scale treatment.  When pressed if he thinks fish will return to lower Muddy Creek someday, John said, yes, down the road, he thinks it is possible.


Public Lands are “Priceless” – by Matt Kearns

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photo by Adam Webster - at the confluence of Otter Creek and Dry Fork, Mon National Forest

photo by Adam Webster

On the first day of the 115th Congress, the House of Representatives passed budget rules that included a provision devaluing public lands. By assigning no value to federal property, Congress has potentially greased the skids for transferring public lands to state or private control — those transactions would now be considered “budget neutral.” Dolly Sods. Seneca Rocks. Cranberry Wilderness. According to the House, with support from all three West Virginia Representatives, these iconic landscapes are deemed worthless.

Really?

Our federal public lands have already been bought and paid for by the taxpayer. Look no further than our mountains and rivers for examples. The Monongahela National Forest was created from owners willing to sell logged-out property so the government could rehabilitate the land. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has supported over $182 million in purchases, including access along the Gauley and New Rivers and wetlands in Canaan Valley. As the result of foresighted actions like these, every American is now a shareholder in over 620 million acres of public land.

These public lands are big business. Congress commissioned a study to understand the value of outdoor recreation, currently estimated at $646 billion. Public land is at the heart of that economy; after all, who would buy new boots or boats if they have nowhere to use them? In state, the Monongahela National Forest supports 1.3 million visitors that spend approximately $82 million dollars annually. The New River Gorge National River provides another $53 million to the local economy. There is likely even more tangible value in the “ecosystem services” offered by public lands: much of West Virginia’s drinking water originates in the headwaters of the Monongahela National Forest — over 300,000 thousand people get their drinking water from the Elk River alone.

The return on our investment in public lands goes far beyond dollars and cents. A rafting trip with friends, a hike with a pet, a day spent hunting and fishing with our children — how can you quantify the value of those experiences and the feelings that linger long after? Or the connectedness and sense of place that public lands offer?  The “Mon” serves as a common denominator among hunters, birders, boaters, fishers, campers, RV towers, bikers, hikers, and climbers. We may enjoy the land in different ways, but every Mountaineer loves and takes pride in our public lands, the most “Wild and Wonderful” part about living in West Virginia.

The new budget rule isn’t the only attack on the integrity of public lands. Bills have been introduced to allow states to seize two million acres of national forests so long

as logging is the priority (HR 3650 & HR 2316). Transferring control of and developing public land is the stated platform of the party that now leads all three branches of government. Congress may very well have taken the first step in a widespread public lands divestment.

Loss of federal ownership could be detrimental to public land users like you and me. Federal lands are managed with mandatory public input and “multiple use” provisions that value clean water and recreation alongside timber and minerals. States often have different priorities. Western sportsmen have found themselves shut out of state lands following profit minded sell-offs. Because the West Virginia state legislature is prohibited from passing a deficit, selling or developing state land could become a quick fix for our financial woes. Mineral rights have been auctioned off beneath some of our Wildlife Management Areas.

President Trump has said we need to be stewards of public lands and it’s not something that should be sold. His pick for Secretary of the Interior, Rep. Ryan Zinke, is an avid sportsman who has spoken out against selling public lands — but he voted for the new budget rule. All Representatives from West Virginia voted in favor of it too. We must hold our leadership accountable. Tell them to protect our public lands from sale or transfer.

Because worthless and priceless are far from the same thing.

Matt Kearns is a veteran and avid outdoorsman. He travelled the length of the Elk River in 2015 to promote the connection between the Monongahela National Forest and our drinking water. Matt is a natural resources graduate student at WVU and works on public lands issues for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition. the Elk River alone.

Addendum:

Just weeks after Congress passed a provision making it easier to sell off public lands, a move to do just that was put forth by US Representative Jason Chaffetz (UT). H.R. 621, Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act, called for the disposal of 3.3 million acres of land for sale to non-federal entities.

The public outcry was enormous.  Thousands of people called their representatives and took to social media to express their outrage and rallied in opposition to the bill.  Thanks to the huge numbers of engaged, outspoken public opponents, in less than one week Chaffetz posted on Instagram his withdrawal of H.R. 621.

This victory is just one example of what can happen when citizens rally together and speak out; our voices are heard, and we can protect what cannot protect itself.  This will not be the only time we need to rally for our public lands, or for our water, etc.  We must remain vigilant and alert.  Here are a few ways to stay engaged.

Sign up for WV Rivers Coalition e-news (state and Federal updates, action alerts):  http://www.wvrivers.org/make-a-difference/join-us

Sign up for WV Environmental Council e-news (WV updates, action alerts):  http://wvecouncil.org/action-alerts-signup/

Join Friends of the Cheat and other groups for E-Day February 27th at the WV Capitol.

Join the March for Science on Earth Day,  April 22.  https://marchforscience.com

Contact your representatives:

US House: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

US Senate:  https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/


Reflecting on the successes of 2016 – and looking forward to 2017!

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Since 1994, Friends of Cheat has been working to fulfill its mission of restoring, preserving, and promoting the outstanding natural qualities of the Cheat River watershed.  As a supporter of our organization, you may wonder exactly what that means.  The quick answer is that without your support – your financial contributions, your volunteering, your help spreading the word about our work – without you, our mission would mean very little.  Our successes, our needs, and the river we all love – depend on your help.  Conversely, this mission is a reflection of the many achievements Friends of Cheat can accomplish with your support.

Over the years, the backing and financial contributions of supporters like you has ultimately allowed our organization to expand its programming and make impactful on-the-ground improvements in the watershed.  Today, because of you, we are engaged in all the core actions of our mission statement.

In just the last year, your financial contributions have helped Friends of the Cheat:

  • Continue maintenance and data collection at nearly 30 water treatment sites throughout the watershed by our expert team of water monitoring staff.

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  • Work with the WV State Rail Authority to purchase 8 miles of rail corridor from CSX for development into a non-motorized rail-trail along the Cheat River Narrows.  Also – the Cheat River Rail-Trail was awarded $150,000 for the first phase of design and construction!

 

  • Raise over $6000 through our Whitewater Access Campaign – which payed for repairs along Bull Run Rd.

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  • Promote Cheat River recreation with a very successful Cheat River Festival – save the date for the 2017 Cheat River Festival 1.5 – May 5th-6th – tickets available now!

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  • Organize the largest group of paddlers to float the river through the Meet the Cheat events.

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  • Build restroom facilities at the Doug Ferris Outdoor Classroom for Cheat Canyon paddlers, Allegheny Trail hikers.

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  • Partner with the WV Adventure Program and engage over 230 students in volunteer service work – resulting in $12,661 of inkind matched funds for our BSROP grant.

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  • Raise over $13,000 for the 2016 Run For It 5k in Davis, WV – and come in 3rd in most funds raised.

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  • Support the FOC CAPABLE program by raising over $3000 on #GivingTuesday.

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Other reasons 2016 rocked – FOC/DEPP partnership has been renewed for another 3 years!  We hired a new technician, Brian Hurley – as Jeremy Sidebottom left to further his education and travel the world.  FOC was named Top Water Conservation Group in the Southeast by Blue Ridge Outdoors.  

And best of all – The Cheat River was one of 2016 EPA 319 Success Stories – declaring the Cheat River “reborn!”  


EPA Cheat River Success Stories

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) featured the Friends of the Cheat and the Cheat River in a handful of publications in 2016.   John Capacasa, Director of the Water Protection Division in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, wrote a blog piece reminiscing about his experiences padding the Cheat 30 years ago, and highlighting the successful “rebirth” of the Cheat River.  Even before the blowout in 1994, he remembers the discoloration of the river in sections.  He writes, “Though these were difficult days for the river, thanks to years of Clean Water Act funding and the cleanup efforts of a local non-profit group, the state and others, the raging waters of the Cheat today represent a major success story.  The orange scour still remains in spots, but the mainstem of the river has been restored – serving once again as a haven for whitewater rafting and smallmouth bass fishing.”  You can read the blog in it’s entirety here.

The EPA also issued a one page pdf in June – emphasizing the “dramatic” recovery of the Cheat River since 2000.

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Just last week, the EPA’s National NonPoint Source Program report was released – with Friends of the Cheat listed as one of the “Faces of Success.”  You can read the entire report here.

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Run For It

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Support FOC’s Team at the Run For It! 5K race

 

Help FOC bring home the cash at the Tucker Community Foundation’s annual Run for It race.  This year’s 5K race and 2K walk is Saturday, September 26 in Davis, West Virginia during the Leaf Peeper Festival.

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It’s fun and easy. You can enjoy a walk around the scenic town or join the competitive 5K race. No matter the pace, every step helps our cause. FOC is looking for runners, walkers, and sponsors. More than 100 cash awards – with over $80,000 up for grabs – will benefit our organization’s mission.

Help FOC Make a Big Splash!

Be a sponsor. Just Give Us 5! $5 that is, to help us reach our sponsorship goal of $1,500. In the fundraising world, there is no better return on investment, for every $5 you donate we have the chance to turn it into $15! Download the donation form below and submit to the Tucker Community Foundation.

If you are looking to add a little adrenaline rush to your donation or would like to participate in the 2K walk, you are welcome to join on our team as a true Friend of the Cheat!  Download the race registration below and join the FOC squad. Before you come down, check out the course map and read Executive Director Amanda Pitzer’s interview in the Tucker Community Foundation Annual Report.

Helpful Links:

For team sponsors

For online donations:  https://raceroster.com/events/2015/4874/run-for-it/charity/donate

For paper donation form:  http://www.tuckerfoundation.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/2015-RFI-Team-Sponsor-Request.pdf

For racer entry

For online registration: https://raceroster.com/events/2015/4874

For paper entry form:  http://www.tuckerfoundation.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015-RFI-Entry-Form.pdf

 

Look at all the fun we had last year!

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For every FOC racer registration, FOC gets half of the entrance fee, so bring your friends and family!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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.


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


Important (and Awesome!) Changes to Kroger Giving Program

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Since 2011, Friends of the Cheat has participated in Kroger’s community giving program.  We are excited to announce that the Gift Card method (Kroger Cares) has been eliminated and a much more user-friendly program has been instated.  It is now easier than ever to give back to FOC just by buying groceries and gas like you usually do!  For every $1 you spend, FOC gets $0.05 back.  Therefore, $100 in groceries = $5 to FOC…and these rewards can add up fast!

You need a Kroger Plus card to enroll in the program.  Friends of the Cheat’s organizational ID is 83139.

TO USE THE KROGER COMMUNITY REWARDS PROGRAM:

  • Register online at krogercommunityrewards.com with your Kroger Plus card on hand.  If you do not yet have a Kroger Plus card, they are available at the customer service desk at any Kroger.
  • Click on Sign In/Register
  • Most participants are new online customers, so click on SIGN UP TODAY in the ‘New Customer?’ box.
  • Sign up for a Kroger Rewards Account by entering zip code, clicking on favorite store, entering your email address and creating a password, agreeing to the terms and conditions
  • You will then get a message to check your email inbox and click on the link within the body of the email.
  • Click on My Account and use your email address and password to proceed to the next step.
  • Click on Edit Kroger Community Rewards information and input your Kroger Plus card number.
  • Update or confirm your information.
  • Enter FOC’s number 83139 or name and click on confirm.
  • To verify you are enrolled correctly, you will see your organization’s name on the right side of your information page.
  • REMEMBER, purchases will not count for your group until after your member(s) register their card(s).
  • Do you use your phone number at the register?  Call 800-576-4377, select option 4 to get your Kroger Plus card number.
  • Members must swipe their registered Kroger Plus card or use the phone number that is related to their registered Kroger Plus card when shopping for each purchase to count.

Cheat Canyon Preserved!

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Cheat Canyon near High Falls, photo credit Kent Mason

Cheat Canyon near High Falls, photo credit Kent Mason

Friends of the Cheat is thrilled to announce that 3,836 acres of the iconic Cheat River Canyon have been purchased by The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy for preservation, and ultimately, public use and enjoyment! Their action will protect a seven-mile stretch of the Cheat River, and most of the Canyon not already included in Cooper’s Rock State Forest and Snake Hill Wildlife Management Area. Finally, after 20 years and a few unsuccessful attempts, the land will now be protected forever!

The Canyon has been a target for conservation since 1976. The Nature Conservancy has identified the Cheat River as one of the most ecologically intact rivers in the Central Appalachians. There are no dams in the Cheat River main stem and none of the watershed’s major tributaries are dammed. The river is connected to a well-forested floodplain, and the vast majority of the watershed’s headwaters are part of the Monongahela National Forest complex.

FOC is hopeful that this is a step towards reviving commercial interest in the Canyon’s world-class whitewater, and, at some time in the future, re-opening the section of the Allegheny Trail that runs through the Canyon. The Allegheny Trail is 330 mile north-south trail through WV, which connects to the Appalachian Trail at the VA-WV border.

When complete, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will manage all 3,800 acres as a component of its Wildlife Management Area system and as a complement to the complex of public recreation lands on the lower Cheat River.

This accomplishment is a landmark event for all parties involved over the last two decades. Kudos to the staff at The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy, and specifically Rodney Bartgis and Beth Wheatley who have engaged FOC throughout this project’s long, bumpy road. FOC looks forward to the next leg of this exciting journey.

What is your vision for the Cheat River Canyon? Tell us by emailing foc@cheat.org with the subject line, Canyon Vision.

Stay up to date on this story and all FOC news by joining our e-mail list.  Go to www.cheat.org and use the sign up window in the top right corner of the page.

Press on this historic sale:

The Charleston Gazette article includes a really neat flyover of the property in Google Earth

The Dominion Post free source

Wheeling Intelligencer


WV Division of Land Restoration & Friends of the Cheat Partnership Pilot Project launch

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DEP Pilot Project Team Coordinator Owen Mulkeen gives the scoop on FOC’s exciting new collaboration:

The season change is in full swing as temperatures drop and leaves turn fiery red and yellow. Fall is everyone’s favorite season: energy is high as harvest time draws near and opportunities for outdoor pursuits abound. Likewise, excitement is brewing at Friends of the Cheat as we inaugurate a large scale service project in partnership with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Hard work from the staff at FOC and the WVDEP Division of Land Restoration over the past year and a half is finally coming to fruition. In August, FOC hired four full-time staff members to create the WV Division of Land Restoration & Friends of the Cheat Partnership Pilot Project, under which FOC will monitor and maintain DEP water treatment facilities residing in the Cheat River basin.

FOC Field Technicians Jeremy Sidebottom, Garrett Thompson, and Chris Bern are already hard at work reducing water pollution in local streams.

FOC Field Technicians Jeremy Sidebottom, Garrett Thompson, and Chris Bern are already hard at work reducing water pollution in local streams.

This is truly an exciting opportunity for Friends of the Cheat. Our hands will physically be turning the knobs that treat acid mine drainage (AMD) right here in our backyard. Our new staff members, most of whom grew up in Preston County, are intimately and acutely aware of the consequences of AMD. Friends of the Cheat would like to welcome the new team coordinator and the three water quality technicians to the Kingwood office: Owen Mulkeen, Chris Bern, Jeremy Sidebottom, and Garrett Thompson. These four individuals will be managing the treatment facilities that dot the countryside of Preston County.

Be on the lookout for new Friends of the Cheat vehicles, and make sure to smile and wave as they’re on their way to clean up some water!


Kingwood Hike with the Preston Ramblers

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On the afternoon of Sunday, June 30th, the Preston Ramblers, a group of hikers rallied by the Preston Rail-Trail Committee (PRTC) of Friends of the Cheat, met at the future trail head of the West Virginia Northern rail-trail near the historic water tower in Kingwood. Four committee members were joined by two community members interested in learning more about the Committee’s rail-trail projects, including how they could get involved. Although it was a hot afternoon, the hikers and a canine companion had a great walk.

Group Picture

Preston Ramblers and guests get ready for a summer hike on the proposed WV Northern Trail

Preston Ramblers organize excursions on rail-trails and future rail-trails throughout the area for members of the community to get acquainted with the trails and learn more about rail-trail development efforts in Preston County. The West Virginia Northern and the Cheat River CSXT line are two rail-trail projects that the Preston Ramblers are promoting in 2013.

The group’s next hike will start from the Tunnelton end of the West Virginia Northern Railroad line, on Thursday July 11th at 6pm, meeting at the Honor Roll area in Tunnelton which is across Rt. 26 from the school. PRTC intents to look over the area and try to come up with a plan for the trail head for that area.  PRTC welcomes new people enthusiastic about the plethora of benefits that rail-trails bring to the area.  Learn more about PRTC and their efforts at www.cheat.org/recreation/trails and by joining the Preston Rail-Trail Committee group on Facebook.  PRTC meets the first Monday of each month at the Friends of the Cheat office in Kingwood at 5pm.