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


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.