The Crellin Elementary School Environmental Remediation and Education Project. The Crellin Elementary School Environmental Remediation and Education Project (the Project) encompasses 5 acres and is located adjacent to a small elementary school, in the center of Crellin, a small Garrett County, Maryland community near the border of West Virginia, consisting of 471 households and 1,407 people. The overall project goal was the recovery of the abandoned coal mine staging (tipple) area of 1 acre, that was discharging acid mine drainage (AMD) into a 2.8 acre wetlands area and then into Snowy Creek, a mountain stream that if restored would be home to native brook trout and provide an opportunity for recreation and enjoyment by the townspeople and the school.
The project reclaimed the impacted land, mitigated the AMD seeps with treatment systems, enhanced the stream bank along Snowy Creek, returned the site to more natural conditions, and enhanced community and school use for education and recreation. Funding was provided through partnerships with different State, Federal, and Local agencies with an interest in seeing the vision of valuable educational and community goals achieved along with environmental restoration. The entire project also received several small grants and donations to assist in the implementation of a unique, one-of-a-kind playground next to the school that reflects the mining and timbering history of the town. The site offered a unique opportunity to incorporate an interactive environmental educational facility (living laboratory) and streamside Community Park that would demonstrate the success and importance of restoration activities and ecological processes. This project area was an ideal opportunity for the creation of natural habitat for plant and animal living resources while including details that support environmental education and recreational access.
The reclamation of the abandoned mine site features and the efforts of committed and creative stakeholders led to one of the most successful environmental education partnerships between private and government stakeholders in the region and became known as the Crellin Corps of Discovery. This effort, spearheaded by their dynamic principal and the committed students of Crellin Elementary School, has resulted in changing the way a whole community approaches environmental stewardship in rural western Maryland and maybe well beyond its borders.
Crellin Historic District, which includes the town of Crellin and the tipple site, was described in Green Glades and Sooty Gob Piles, a comprehensive study report on the architectural historic standing structures in western Maryland (Ware, 1991). The study, funded by a U. S. Office of Surface Mining Program Development Grant through an MOU with the Maryland Bureau of Mines, provides valuable historic information about the town of Crellin and its mining past.
Crellin was first a timbering town. William and Thomas Ashby constructed the Snowy Creek Dam, located in the Crellin Historic District, circa 1850, to power a sawmill that no longer exists. The timber crib dam was approximately 4 feet high and spanned Snowy Creek on the western edge of the town of Crellin. The mill operated for 40 years until another sawmill was built at the opposite side of town on the Youghiogheny River. With time, Crellin became a coal company town once the supply of timber was exhausted. In 1925, members of the Kendall family and others formed the Stanley Coal Company which was later absorbed into the Kray Coal Company, operatory of the mines in the vicinity of Crellin. In 1960, the Kray Company offered houses for sale to their occupants and abruptly closed their mines. The Kendall sawmill at Crellin was extant by 1980, but the intact company store, church, school, superintendent’s house, and some houses were reported standing in 1980 and continue to survive in the 21st century. The well-preserved store, built in 1896, stands in the Crellin Historic District, a town that at times during the 19th century served as the center of operations for several coal, timber, and railroad companies. The remains of the abandoned tipple site were located next to the Crellin Elementary School and were the site location for this reclamation project.
At a summer camp in 2003, students at the Crellin Elementary School noticed orange water flowing into Snowy Creek, located adjacent to their school’s property. The students questioned “why is the water orange and how did it get here”—these simple questions would serve as the spark for an award-winning program that has captured the hearts and energy of everyone who visits. The teachers set out to help the students answer these questions and what developed from those simple questions has been nothing short of phenomenal. The school’s landscape looks much different since that day in 2003. If you visit Crellin Elementary today, you would have the opportunity to take a tour of the Environmental Education Laboratory with a student guide. This young guide will discuss students’ role in the restoration and their monitoring of Snowy Creek, a tributary of the Youghiogheny River.
The reclamation vision of the Project was to mitigate the AMD seeps with a treatment system, enhance 280 feet of stream bank, and return the site to more natural conditions, and to also prepare the site for enhanced community and school use for environmental education and recreation. Funding was obtained through partnerships with agencies with an interest in seeing the vision of valuable educational and community goals achieved in conjunction with environmental restoration. The project also received several small grants and donations along with town and parent labor to assist in the construction of the playground that reflects the mining and timbering history of the town. The site offered a unique opportunity to incorporate an interactive environmental educational facility (living laboratory) and streamside Community Park that would demonstrate the success and importance of restoration activities and ecological processes. The project area was an ideal opportunity for the creation of natural habitat for plant and animal living resources while including details that would support environmental education and recreational access.
The Maryland Department of the Environment, Abandoned Mine Land Division (MDE/AMLD) played a critical role in the reclamation of the abandoned coal tipple site which was eligible for mine reclamation funds. MDE/AMLD developed the construction plans and specifications using the conceptual design envisioned by the Corps of Discovery partners. These plans included many innovative details unusual to standard abandoned mine reclamation but important to an environmental classroom. A vernal pool area was created so students could observe the development of amphibians from egg to adult stages during the spring. A limestone leach bed was constructed to add alkalinity to Snowy Creek and neutralize acidic inputs. Two bat houses were constructed onsite for student observation. Two wetland areas were created for treatment of AMD and protection of the natural wetlands at the site using SAPS technology. For each SAPS cell, the on-site acid water is conveyed by the underground limestone drains and pools over an organic layer that is underlain with 3 feet of limestone. Below this limestone layer is a series of drainage pipes that convey the water out of the SAPS Cells. Treatment works by hydraulic head driving the pooled water through the organic layer, through the limestone and into the pipe system. In the layer of organic material, dissolved oxygen (DO) is removed from the water before introduction into the underlying layer of limestone. The limestone dissolves, creating alkalinity in the water that reacts with the acid in the mine drainage. The organic layer converts ferric iron to ferrous iron, which insures that the iron does not coat the limestone and render it unreactive. The process results in an alkaline, lower metal content, near-neutral pH discharge from the treatment system. The system requires minimal maintenance to operate. A unique design feature was using the construction of these underground drains to collect the AMD flowing through the regraded spoil material that could also double as walking paths. The excess spoil at the site was graded into a sled riding hill and amphitheater, with seating for over 60 people. The stream bank was regraded along Snowy Creek reestablishing the flood plain and now provides access for fishing. A weather resistant walkway provides access to collect samples through the treatment wetlands and the 2.8-acre natural wetland without affecting the ecosystem. The walkway provides unimpeded and non-intrusive access for students, teachers, and interested stakeholder groups to observe and learn about wetland processes, both as natural and treatment functions. A number of signs that describe the history and past condition of the site, the details of the restoration project, and recognition of the effort of the many partners are being added at critical points along the paths to inform those who use the site.
A number of project partners, in the spirit of the Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative mission, contributed grant funds for the site reclamation portion of the project as well as the carrying forth of the environmental classroom concept made possible by the reclamation of the site problems. Combined financial resources were provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining, and Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative annual grant to MDE/AMLD to regrade and drain a portion of the adjacent tipple area prior to the installation of the themed playground. MDE/AMLD also collaborated with the Youghiogheny River Watershed Association and the Garrett County Community Action Committee, Inc. to obtain funds from the Office of Surface Mining’s Watershed Cooperative Grant program. These monies funded the primary reclamation of the site that was needed first to allow for development of an outdoor education center. The explanatory signs and no-maintenance boardwalk were funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 3 Congressional Earmark 104(b) (3) grant to MDE/AMLD. Additional grant funds of $5,000 were provided by the NiSource Inc., Environmental Challenge Fund. Access for fishing was made possible by the regarded stream banks and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources stock fish annually since the project was completed.
Crellin Corps of Discovery and Elementary Environmental Laboratory
Crellin Community “Corps of Discovery” is a dedicated group of students, community members, organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies that are committed to protecting the natural resources of our community and engaging students to provide meaningful learning opportunities.
Throughout each school year, Crellin Elementary students are now able to participate in activities that enrich their knowledge of Maryland's watersheds. Since Crellin Elementary is located along Snowy Creek, students have unique outdoor learning opportunities. Through an integrated environmental education approach, students are able to gain firsthand experience and knowledge about ecological principles such as watersheds, acid mine drainage (AMD), historical natural resource uses, biological and chemical stream monitoring, riparian buffers, and wetlands. The school has adopted “green” practices such as water conservation, recycling, and reducing waste. These intimate experiences have created an early sense of responsibility and stewardship in these young students. The project continues to engage parents and community members and has led to raised awareness and increased knowledge in abandoned coalmine issues and related watershed values.
The Crellin Elementary Environmental Laboratory is an outdoor classroom created in conjunction with the stream and wetland restoration project. While the project was specifically designed to address AMD seeps and reclaim a pre-law abandoned coal tipple on the property located behind the school, the project was unique in that it was designed with student learning in mind as well as land and water reclamation. Components of the AMD restoration project, such as restoring the riparian buffer with native vegetation and constructing AMD treatment ponds, allowed the school to incorporate learning outside of the school walls and provide meaningful hands-on learning experiences in their backyard.
Teachers at the school are working with environmental specialists from Garrett College, Canaan Valley Institute, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Youghiogheny Watershed Association to create age appropriate lessons that correspond to the Maryland curriculum. Students participate in summer science camps at Crellin Elementary that focus on exploring the schoolyard habitat by planting a native butterfly garden, building bat boxes, exploring the riparian area, stream restoration, and chemical and biological testing to determine stream quality. Students have also worked with biologists on identifying ferns and data collection of crayfish. Students collect baseline data on planted native trees to track growth using grade appropriate math and measurement skills. Students are raising trout eggs in aquariums at the school for restocking by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in Snowy Creek. During all these experiences, students have documented their learning in journals and through the creation of presentations.
The success of the Project lent itself to receiving an award sponsored by EPA called the Presidential Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). In 2008, Crellin School won the PEYA award for the Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC region. When the Crellin Corps of Discovery dedicated their Environmental Education Lab (and History Themed Playground) on May 31, 2008, it also received the 2008 National Civic Star Award from Sodexho. The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and Sodexho, Inc. sponsored the 6th annual National Civic Star Award. This award honors excellence in school district and community partnerships that enrich student knowledge and achievement. Garrett County Public Schools received $10,000 ($5,000 for the Corps of Discovery program and $5,000 for the district’s scholarship fund).
It is not often that a small rural school and community have the opportunity to celebrate winning a national award. Due to the essential work of the Abandoned Mine Land Program and dedicated Maryland and federal environmental agencies, the Crellin Corps of Discovery celebrated receiving three national awards for their efforts and participation in the restoration of a nearby stream; the development of adaptive reuse of the land for the community; and the creation of a unique learning environment for the Crellin Elementary students. The Corps, as it is commonly called, is an association of students, teachers, community members, nonprofits, and state and federal agencies committed to protecting the natural resources of Crellin and engaging students in meaningful learning opportunities. The students’ curiosity, the teachers’ willingness, the principal’s determination, and the community’s involvement have put Crellin, Maryland, on the map for environment-based education.
If you visit Crellin Elementary today you will have an opportunity to see the amazing results achieved by the Abandoned Mine Land Program working in conjunction with dedicated educators and enthusiastic students. A student would lead you down the boardwalk, complete with informational signs and a field guide developed through student research. The next stop would be the history-themed playground that was designed and built with student assistance after a school-wide history project. A class of students, and sometimes their parents, studying birds with a visiting specialist may be another sight along the tour. You would surely enjoy one of the several gardens and most definitely see lots of smiling faces around the school grounds.
“Crellin Elementary no longer exists only within school walls. The entire community became the classroom. The school, community, and environment are intertwined to provide learning opportunities for the students. The collaboration that has occurred among the school, families, project partners, and community gave a small school and community in Appalachia, a real sense of being part of something larger, of making a difference in their community.” This is just one example of the successes in each state with an abandoned mine land program can point to how the reclamation can make a real difference in the lives of the American people.”
Principals in this project included Shari Wilson (Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment), Michael P. Garner (Division Chief, Abandoned Mine Lands), and Constance Lyons Loucks (Section Chief, Acid Mine Drainage). Phase 1 construction started April 2005; Phase 2 – August 2005; Phase 3 – January 2006. Construction completed March 2007, at a construction cost of $238,000. This included $35,000 in funds from the Carl Delsignore Charitable Foundation that was used to design and purchase a unique school and community playground that reflects the town’s mining and timbering history and was built on a portion of the reclaimed site adjacent to the school. Actual construction was in-kind and carried out by community and parent volunteers and the active participation of the school staff and children. Construction contractors: Phase 1 – John Duckworth Excavating, Frostburg, MD; Phases 2 & 3 – Kiddy Contracting, LLC, Lonaconing, MD. Project engineer: Joseph E. Mills, Maryland Abandoned Mine Lands Division. Contracting agency: Garrett County Community Action Committee under Cooperative Agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment. Funded by: Maryland Deep Mine Fund ($9,000), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 104(b)(3) Funds ($60,000), Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative Grant Funds ($29,000), Watershed Cooperative Grant Funds ($100,000) from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining, and a $5,000 grant from the NiSource Inc. Environmental Challenge Fund.
Crellin School Project: Snowy Creek Before Restoration
Crellin School Project: Snowy Creek After Restoration
Crellin School Project: Tipple Site Before Construction
Removal and Regrading of Spoil for Playground
Crellin School Project: AMD Wetland Treatment System
Crellin School Project: Aerial View After Construction
Aerial View After Construction of Playground, Amphitheater, Wetland Treatment System and Snowy Creek
The Monday Creek Restoration Project. Located in Appalachian Ohio, approximately 60 miles southeast of Columbus, Monday Creek Watershed flows in a southerly direction to the Hocking River. The main stem of Monday Creek is 27 miles in length with an average fall of 10.4 feet per mile. Two main tributaries of Monday Creek are Little Monday Creek (14.3 miles in length) and Snow Fork (10.7 miles in length). Monday Creek watershed drains an area of 116 square miles in portions of three counties.
The majority of Monday Creek Watershed is rural. Land cover consists of forest (87 percent), mining (5 percent), cropland (3 percent), wetlands (2 percent) and one percent or less of pasture, grazing and urban lands. Approximately 50 percent of the watershed is federal land managed by the U.S. Forest Service as Wayne National Forest. Other large landholders are Sunday Creek Coal Company and the State of Ohio. Approximately 15,000 acres of abandoned underground coalmines exist in the watershed. In addition, 4,000 acres have been surface mined for coal. There are currently no coal mining operations underway in the watershed.
Coal mining occurred throughout the watershed from the mid-1800s to the early 1970s. Mine complexes often encompassed entire valleys and frequently extended into adjacent drainage basins. A total of 31 sub watersheds have been delineated within the watershed. Coal mining occurred in all but two of the basins and resulted in moderate to severe impacts to water quality from acid mine drainage.
Aquatic life has been subsequently affected by poor water quality conditions resulting from acid mine drainage. In terms of both relative abundance and biomass, the majority of the fish assemblage in Monday Creek was composed of highly adaptable, environmentally tolerant species (northern creek chub, green sunfish, yellow bullhead and white sucker). In several sub watersheds, no fish have been observed. The absence of fish clearly reflects acutely toxic conditions resulting from AMD.
In November 1994, a group of individuals from agencies, institutions and local watershed residents formed the Monday Creek Restoration Project to work together for watershed improvements. As a non-profit (501(c)3) organization, Rural Action sponsored the project and provided a VISTA volunteer for project coordination.
In 1999, Monday Creek Restoration Project completed its first management plan, entitled “A Comprehensive Plan for the Monday Creek Watershed”. This plan identified thirteen issues affecting the watershed, including acid mine drainage, erosion and sedimentation, forest disturbance, sewage treatment and recreational opportunities. In developing the management plan, the partnering organizations adopted a mission statement stating, “The Monday Creek Restoration Project is a partnership committed to improving watershed health and water quality for the benefit of the community.”
Over the past 12 years, MCRP (through Rural Action) has been awarded six Section 319 water quality grants. The grants have funded restoration projects involving the installation of wetland treatment cells, capping of coal refuse piles, and installation of limestone leach beds, steel slag leach beds and dosers. In addition, MCRP has received several Appalachian Clean Stream Initiative grants and Cooperative Agreements through the Office of Surface Mining.
The reclamation projects implemented in the Monday Creek Watershed have resulted in improved water quality conditions in the main stem of the creek. In 2011 the pH of the creek ranged from 5 to 7. With improved water quality, the number of fish species found in Monday Creek has increased from four species in 1994 to 23 species in 2011.
The Monday Creek staff works in a close partnership with a number of organizations and agencies. Among them are the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (Division of Mineral Resources Management), Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, Office of Surface Mining, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hocking College, West Virginia University and Ohio University. In addition, numerous volunteers assist in stream cleanups, summer day camps, stream sampling and tree plantings.
Monday Creek Restoration Project currently has 12 projects planned or under construction. One of these projects is an ecosystem restoration project sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The goal of this project is to restore Monday Creek Watershed to self-sustaining conditions and be designated as a Warm Water Habitat by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Through the design and construction of various treatment systems, water quality in Monday Creek will be enhanced and the aquatic ecosystem will be restored.
MITIGATION BANKING DEMONSTRATION PROJECT: The Lyons Run Watershed Association located in western Pennsylvania is developing a water quality improvement project to remediate approximately three and one half miles of Lyons Run which is currently compromised by acid mine drainage. The stream is located in Westmoreland County and is on both private and public lands. It is the purpose of this project to demonstrate the success of ameliorating the mine drainage, resulting in the restoration of the Lyons Run stream, utilizing investment monies, to construct a passive water treatment system. The treatment system would be monitored continually, assuring treatment goals and financial assurances for perpetual maintenance of the system also provided. The project will be financed through the Association, its Board and other benefactors with no public dollars sought for construction of the treatment system. Anticipated results in addition to water quality improvements include re-establishment of wetlands and associated habitats, increased property values and recreational opportunities.
The Lyons Run Watershed Association proposes establishing the first stream restoration and wetlands Mitigation Bank in Pennsylvania to provide for compensatory mitigation that is required when developers and others such as the Department of Transportation disturb wetlands and/or streams with project implementation. Compensatory mitigation is the restoration, establishment, enhancement, or preservation of aquatic resources for the purpose of offsetting losses of aquatic resources resulting from activities authorized by the US Army Corps of Engineers’ and the PA Department of Environmental Protections’ permits. The 2008 new rules under the federal Clean Water Act specifies the preference for developers and others who will disturb the quality of wetlands or streams to purchase wetland and/or stream “credits” from a Mitigation Bank rather than undertaking remediation themselves as Mitigation Banks have been deemed to be more successful in their mitigation efforts to insure pollution abatement and perpetual maintenance of systems.
The proposed project is an exciting venture for the Lyons Run Watershed Association. Using an innovative approach to finance the remediation of acid mine drainage pollutants in Lyons Run and returning the stream to as close to pre-mining impact conditions as possible is the ultimate goal. By establishing credits which will pay for the amelioration of mine drainage is innovative and is an excellent method to showcase throughout the State of Pennsylvania and all of Appalachia where monies for this type of remediation are under-funded. Our approach using private capital to initially construct the treatment system and a mitigation banking approach to offset initial costs and capitalize perpetual maintenance of the system may be the solution to lead the way to address other streams impacted by acid mine drainage within the watershed and throughout the State of Pennsylvania. The pilot project may provide a workable example leading to opportunities for replication in other mine impacted states and regions.
Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance.Based in Greeneville TN, the Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance (MNWA) is a 5013c non-profit conservation organization. The Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance (MNWA) provides farm planning to local residences through funds provided by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency-Land Owner Improvement Program; the US Fish and Wildlife Service - Partners Program; and general fund raising of the MNWA. The most frequent installed BMPs are stream exclusion fencing, watering facilities and pumping stations for livestock watering.
In addition to the normal planning and support for farm operation, MNWA provides guidance for Low Impact Development Design and Storm water Management. We support to the Greene County Soil Conservation District in the management of a 319 grant for the improvement of College Creek, which is a 303d listed stream for sediment. Over the last 3 years, two major storm water retention ponds have been designed and installed to reduce the flash of runoff during an intense rainstorm. Also during this time, numerous rain gardens and rain harvesting systems have been put into operation. Additionally, there are three created wetlands being designed to help improve filtration of the runoff from a cluster of buildings on Tusculum College campus.
Part of the Tusculum project will include a large pervious pavement parking lot and an outdoor classroom adjacent to the wetlands for teaching elementary through college age students about the ecology of the wetlands and other Best Management Practices installed in the project. Farm BMPs are also part of this 319 program with emphasis on livestock stream exclusion, stream accesses and water systems. Other completed projects include stream bank restoration of sections of multiple creeks and streams within our section of the river. Within our assigned area, there are 85 named streams and 56 are listed on the EPA/TDEC impaired streams list.
One such project is on Crazy Johnson Creek in the headwaters of Little Chuck Creek. Little Chucky is the home of the Chuchy Madtom Catfish which has been recently added to the endangered list by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The biggest problem for this fish is siltation of the stream. This particular species is only found in the Little Chucky. We work with USFWS to reduce siltation of the stream buy reducing stream bank erosion. The Crazy Johnson project included 175 feet of severely eroded bank shown in Figure 3 before work was started. The creek had moved about 20 feet into the landowners yard and was continuing to take more of the yard with each rain. Figure 4 shows the finished project with the stream bank reshaped and reinforced with matting and vegetation. This project was completed in the early summer of 2011.
Another popular conservation practice is the installation of cattle watering systems. Several of these are completed each year with the water source being utility water, springs, and ponds mainly. Occasionally we will pump water from a creek to provide the source.
A project that reflects one of these methods is a water trough installed below the dam of a pond. In this particular installation, we had discovered high levels of arsenic in the creek running through this farm and provided an alternate water source from the pond. The creek was fenced to exclude livestock, which provided two benefits; the livestock were no longer exposed to the contaminated water and they were
not causing bank erosion by entering the creek to get a drink. The trough is now the alternate water source with water provided by a large pond out of site at the top for the picture.
The MNWA has been able to share much of the knowledge we have gained through our work in the Middle Nolichucky area with others from many appalachian states through the opportunities afford at ECRR training sessions. We have benefited from the experiences of the others who have also attended these trainings. We look forward to many more opportunities at the training sessions and the State of the Region Roundtable.
TVA TARGETED WATERSHED INITIATIVE - Upper Powell, Virginia The Upper Powell River/Callahan Creek/Roaring Fork watershed (P17) comprises 72,019 acres and 157 river miles as well as 38 named tributaries. The watershed is within Wise County; and includes the Towns of Wise, Big Stone Gap and Appalachia, the City of Norton, and the communities of Pardee, Stonega, Exeter, Dunbar and Osaka. Land use is characterized by both active and historic coal-mining as well as timbering. Several stream segments have failed to meet state water quality standards due to benthic impairments and bacteria. A TMDL study was completed in 2006.
The North Fork Powell watershed (P20) comprises 56,981 acres and 135 river miles in Lee County, VA. It includes the communities of Keokee, Ben Hur and the Towns of St. Charles and Pennington Gap. It is drained by the North Fork Powell River and 45 tributaries. Land use is characterized by a legacy of coal-mining and impacted by sedimentation from abandoned mine land (AML). Many stream segments have failed to meet state water quality standards; the impairments are benthics (general standard), and bacteria. Several watershed plans have been completed or are now in progress that detail water quality improvement measures needed along Virginia segments of the Powell River and its tributaries.
The Powell River Partnership (PRP) was established in 2001 specifically to improve water quality on the Powell River in both hydrologic units. The group acts as a roundtable for local, state and federal agencies and organizations, and has been a partner in developing an NRCS-sponsored watershed plan for the North Fork Powell. In 2009, this plan received congressional approval for 65% of the approximately $1.8M needed to remediate 39 sites. In another 2009 success, the Pennington Gap greenway project along the North Fork Powell River received its second federal SAFETY-LU grant award, this one for $350K, which will enable the project to move forward to permitting and construction.
Morris Creek Watershed Association. The Morris Creek watershed in southern West Virginia is located approximately 25 miles southeast of Charleston, the State capitol, near the town of Montgomery on Morris Creek, a tributary of the upper Kanawha River. The watershed spans a little over five miles, north to south, and covers approximately seven and a half squares miles and about 5,000 acres. The Watershed is connected to a 44,000 acre tract of rural undeveloped land used primarily for timber, coal and gas extraction, and has unlimited resources for outdoor education and recreation. The elevation at the source of the drainage is approximately one thousand eight hundred feet above sea level and drops to about six hundred and forty feet above sea level at the mouth where it joins the Kanawha River. The average drop is two hundred twenty eight feet per linear mile across the watershed.
Many years ago Morris creek supported aquatic life such as crawfish, minnows, lizards, frogs, pockets of pan fish, and a variety of small aquatic creatures. For nearly 60 years, the lower portion of the stream was dead of aquatic life, with areas of Acid Mine Drainage, areas of “Yellow Boy” with white foam ”Aluminum” precipitating out of the water, and onto the streambed, and sediment issues that resulted in the stream’s placement on the EPA 303d list. These toxins came from past unregulated coal mining practices as well as a previously active landfill containing undocumented hazardous materials. The stream was an unsafe place for everything living alongside the stream, with harmful impacts extending into the Kanawha River and on to the Ohio.
Contaminated drainage negatively affects the health and well-being of the watershed and the surrounding community. The Morris Creek community experienced increasingly high cancer death rates, far exceeding the norm. Local property values had declined due to land scarring, abandoned mine drainage, severely stained streambed, and other environmental hazards including a recent active mine fire.
Mining records showed mining began in the early 1800’s and continued until 1988. Improper reclamation practices from past mining and logging activities had impeded economic growth potential in the area.
In the early fall of 2001, local volunteers began their work to organize and restore the watershed to its previous pristine condition. On March 21, 2002 the Morris Creek Watershed Association, Inc. (MCWA) was officially formed and consisted of four officers, twenty-two directors, and forty-five other members. Now a 501-3-C organization, their goals are to return the Morris Creek watershed to a safe environment for all residents while restoring the water quality to a condition capable of supporting both aquatic life and local recreational activities.
Today, the MCWA is an active, thriving organization with several remediation projects to its credit as it continues “Building a better tomorrow today…. one drop at a time.” MCWA has removed 167.5 tons of solid waste, remediated four Acid Mine Drainage sites, planted over 150 trees including 100 native American chestnuts, reintroduced three species of trout to the stream, and constructed five K-dams to increase cover and habitat for the aquatic life. The organization has reduced in stream sediment by over 9000 cu.yds and eradicated over 600 feet of Japanese Knotweed. In two Martin Luther King Day of Service Events, MCWA and volunteers have constructed and installed 50 bird houses, introduced 159 tons of limestone sands into the stream, and planted over 1,100 trees in 2011.
Morris Creek Watershed is currently working on 39 separate projects, including the Morris Creek Reunion, Project WET, Trout in the Classroom, Wildlife habitat improvements, an ongoing bird count with over 79 species of birds documented.
Their outreach and environmental educational programs target youth and other college/university educational groups. MCWA is presently working with the Army Corp of Engineers on a “Working Plan for the Validation of the Operational Draft Regional Guidebook for the Functional Assessment of High-gradient Ephemeral and Intermittent Headwater Streams in Western West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky”
Opequon Watershed Project Team
Lou Scavinsky plunged into purchasing idyllic farmlands with ponds and lakes out of an adolescent interest in scuba diving. He took to planting trees to beautify the properties and then resold them. His current 10-acre home along the Opequon Creek in West Virginia contains 3,000 trees of 52 different varieties. When he received a letter from the Opequon Creek Project Team one day, he turned his personal interest into community action.
Scavinsky, now Vice-President of OCPT, works with a core group of eight volunteers to combat the livestock intrusions, erosion, sedimentation, and wastewater treatment runoff that have impaired the 30 miles of Opequon Creek in Berkeley and Jefferson counties. The stream contains the highest levels of nitrogen and phosphorus of any West Virginia Potomac-based watershed. Since 2005, the OCPT has worked to change those numbers.
The OCPT has completed a stream reconstruction program in partnership with the Canaan Valley Institute, the DEP, and DNR groups. They identified major erosion areas along farmers' properties on the Mill Creek tributary to create a 1,000 foot natural riparian buffer against cows and sedimentation. In December 2009, they successfully planted hundreds of dogwood and willow stakes along the river. This past summer their volunteers completed the project by planting 400 bare root trees along the stream bank. "Basically there is no cost to these farmers because we'll fence and we'll plant and we'll provide hard cattle crossings," said Scavinsky, who currently serves as the group's vice-president.
OCPT has also organized thirteen dry and wet clean-ups since 2005. Most recently, eighteen volunteers in kayaks scoured the river for errant refuse. In just a four-mile stretch, OCPT collected 20 bags of assorted bottles and cans and 36 tires. Six couches remained stuck in the area. "The mentality in the eastern panhandle hasn't changed. The folks think the stream is a repository for things that they don't want. We're trying through education to change that mentality," Scavinsky emphasized.
In addition to reaching out to waterfront property owners through mailings and discussions at Homeowners' Association meetings, OCPT hosts annual "Fun Floats" to engage residents along the river. On September 18, 2010, fifty participants kayaked and canoed down two miles of the Opequon. "Some of the people who attend our events, they always stop by and say, 'We know what you do and we are thankful." noted Scavinsky.
The group has also built three public rain gardens. Their partnership with the local Master Gardeners Group allowed them to build two rain gardens at the Judicial Center in downtown Martinsburg. They have also constructed one at the Public Service Water District Building.
Additionally, OCPT has partnered with the local Boy Scout troop, Faith Christian Academy high school, and the Martinsburg Journal newspaper to promote events and projects. "My picture is in the paper more than any other local politician," said Scavinsky. More information on OCPT's projects and upcoming events can be found on their website.
Lock Haven, PA
Press released provided by Trout Unlimited
A recent study conducted by Trout Unlimited in partnership with the DEP, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, and the USGS has shown a marked improvement in the overall health of the West Branch Susquehanna River and its tributaries over the past 25 years. The watershed area contains over 1,200 miles of impaired streams and 36,000 acres of abandoned mine land in Pennsylvania. This study marked the first comprehensive look at the whole west branch.
The study found significant water quality improvements and benthic levels from the river's headwaters in Cambria County to Lock Haven, PA, a distance of over 250 miles. The Karthaus, PA, the river contained 72% less iron and 87% less aluminum than it did in the mid-1980s. The fish populations near Hyner, PA have improved by more than 3,000 percent compared to 1999 populations.
Passive and active remediation projects along the impaired stream sections and abandoned mine lands have attributed to these improvements. "This research shows that in just a short time, the river's health is improving," said Amy Wolfe, director of TU's Eastern abandoned mine program. "We still have a long way to go to repair the damage from historic coal mining, but the tremendous effort at the state and local levels to restore the West Branch Susquehanna watershed is clearly paying off." Learn more.