Canaan Valley Institute restores fish habitat, wetlands areas on historic Cheat Mountain

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Shavers Fork CHEAT MOUNTAIN, W.Va. – Canaan Valley Institute takes pride in restoring some of West Virginia’s most pristine areas, and a group of people recently had the opportunity to see CVI’s outstanding work firsthand.

During a special day-long tour, CVI staff members showed off work completed and underway at two locations on Cheat Mountain in Randolph County.

In one case, native brook trout can access vital spawning grounds on Beaver Creek thanks to culverts and step pools allowing passage through 100 feet of stream under a railroad. In another, erosion is being reduced, spruce forest re-created and wetlands habitat created on Bartons Bench.

Both projects are located in the Monongahela National Forest and involve multi-group partnerships and creative designs that are the specialty of Davis-based Canaan Valley Institute.

“Our experts in stream restoration, forestry, animal habitat and community development work closely with a variety of partners to honestly assess situations and craft solutions that work for everyone,” said Jennifer Newland, CVI’s executive director. “As a non-profit group, we have flexibility to work in ways that can be more difficult for government agencies. We collaborate with the private sector, state and federal agencies, and other non-profit organizations to accomplish more than any of us could do alone.”

CVI works throughout West Virginia, and Maryland and western Virginia to ensure healthy streams, which are a critical economic engine for rural communities. Projects include wastewater treatment facilities, mine reclamation, restoration of natural streams and wetlands, and educational outreach. Accomplishments range from improved test scores at a Maryland school and innovative science classes for West Virginia students to wastewater treatment options that stop raw sewage from entering streams and stream restoration that stopped erosion and saved people’s property.

During the May 4 tour that started at the Cheat Mountain Club, some visitors hiked through a former strip mine site that now is growing native red spruce and serves as home for a number of amphibian species. Another main goal of the Bartons Bench restoration was to “decommission” roads, including large sections that once served as heavy-duty haul roads. These roads funneled run-off into gullies that were eroding and washing tons of sediment to a trout stream.

“Thanks to the hard work of staff from CVI and the U.S. Forest Service – as well as legions of volunteers – this land again is home to woodcock, frogs, wetlands and bogs,” Newland said. “It’s also available for hikers, hunters and fishermen to enjoy. We’ve been able to restore hydrology at a watershed scale, from the benches and roads at the top to the streams at the bottom.”

Another nearby project involved installing culverts under active railroad tracks and simulating a natural stream to allow for trout to moveBartons Bench into the stream to spawn. Because of the remote location – 10 miles off U.S. 250 and roughly a half-mile from a Forest Service road, much of the material was brought in by railroad.

“We replaced three undersized, hanging culverts with one larger culvert and installed them at a proper slope with baffles to allow trout passage, and two additional culverts for flood drainage,” said Todd Miller, aquatic restoration director for CVI. “We built a series of step pools to provide trout passage through 100 feet of stream, dropping 7 feet in elevation below the culvert. Natural materials simulate a natural stream, allowing trout to move from pool to pool and dissipating energy when high flows pass through the channel.”

In addition to the U.S. Forest Service, CVI worked with West Virginia University, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and other partners on the Beaver Creek project. A CVI staff member actually set up camp just a short distance from the site to speed the construction process and minimize travel.

Canaan Valley Institute continues to seek additional donations and grant funding to go with its existing revenue streams. Financing comes through foundations, federal agencies, state remediation funds and other sources.

“We want to continue efforts to encourage responsible development in the Potomac Highlands, and clean water is a critical part of that,” Newland said. “We can assist with honest, detailed assessments of current situations, then craft creative solutions and design workable plans.”

For more information about Canaan Valley Institute and its capabilities, call 304-259-4739 or visit www.canaanvi.org.

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