$5 for one chance
$20 for 6 chances
“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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
Stay safe friends.
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 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.”
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.
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
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
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 Division of Forestry Resource Assessment 2010, pg. 25
For more information, check out the Save Our State Parks webpage.
Stay up to date with Friends of the Cheat by reading our State of the Cheat River Watershed Trifold.
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.
Two Meet the Cheat events put record numbers of paddlers on the Cheat River.
While HB 2506, WV drinking water policy changes, gave us nightmares.
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:
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.
“Rebirth has begun, but there is more work to be done”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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-
Sign up for WV Environmental Council e-news (WV updates, action alerts): http://wvecouncil.org/action-a
Join Friends of the Cheat and other groups for E-Day February 27th at the WV Capitol.
Contact your representatives:
US Senate: https://www.senate.gov/senato
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:
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
For every FOC racer registration, FOC gets half of the entrance fee, so bring your friends and family!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
By: Kevin Ryan
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:
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 email@example.com 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
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.
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!
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.
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/