“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.
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.
“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!
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.