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Merry Christmas from STTWA: Where are we and what's next?

The leaves have fallen, Tygart Lake is drawn down, and the wind sure is getting cold! We’ve made it past Thanksgiving in the pursuit of harvesting a white-tailed deer and stuffing ourselves at the dinner table. We too enjoy the time-honored traditions that West Virginia has to offer during this season, but we also enjoy the positive impact we have made, and can make, on the health of our watershed even during the holiday season.

Perhaps this is a great time to look back on the year, for here at Save The Tygart Watershed Association, we have a lot to be thankful for in 2022.

It's beyond difficult to wrap our 2022 into a single list, as we've shared so many memories and accomplishments. Perhaps the best way to sum it up is to give you a visual sneak-peek into some of the work we completed:

Water Quality Surveys:

Pictured Above: STTWA Board Member & Founding Member, Paul Baker, & WVDEP Northern Basin Coordinator, Martin Christ, collecting water samples and parameters from one of our sampling sites.

Water chemistry is largely the most important aspect of Save The Tygart Watershed Association's mission, as this is the very building block by which we assess the health of our streams. This allows us to pinpoint areas of need, develop plans, assess changes over time, build a data log by which we can prove the efficiency of our treatments, or use this data to find new impacts to our watershed (potentially before ecological damages occur).

In 2022 alone, we sampled 155 individual sites between the Tygart Valley River, Sandy Creek, Three Fork Creek, Beaver Creek, Roaring Creek, Laurel Creek of Beaver Creek, Maple Run of Sandy Creek, Wickwire Run, Fords Run, Scab Run, Berkeley Run, Shelby Run, & Tucker Run. Amongst these 155 samples, we measured a total number of 696 parameters!

In general, the parameters we measure include values for temperature, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, total aluminum, total iron, total manganese, soluble aluminum, soluble iron, soluble manganese, total lead, total cadmium, individual acidity & alkalinity, sulfates, presence of E. coli bacteria, total fecal coliform, flow rate, and pebble count.

Our field surveys are not exclusive to a select group of people, as we love to take all members of our community along on our journeys. We would be honored to teach you the science behind our surveys, and would gladly allow you to pull your own samples or train with water sampling equipment! Volunteers from all across our community are encouraged to attend. If you would like to join, simply give us a call or send an email to Becoming a member of STTWA helps to keep you in the loop so you won't miss an opportunity!

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sampling:

Pictured Above: WV Save Our Streams Program Coordinator, Callie Sams, and STTWA Member, Samantha Grimes, performing a kick-netting sample on the headwaters of the Tygart Valley River in spring.

Aside from water chemistry, benthic macroinvertebrates are one of the most important factors related to stream health. These macroinvertebrates need clean water to maintain healthy populations, which is why they are critical in regards to water monitoring. I've discussed benthic macroinvertebrates in greater detail in a previous blog Here.

These kick-net sampling events can often-times be one of the most fun activities with regards to water quality sampling. These present a great opportunity for our volunteers to see a whole new underwater world through new eyes. It's often that witnessing these critters can change your whole perspective on watershed ecology. Not to mention, a fisherman can greatly benefit from learning about what his favorite fish are eating.

We were fortunate to be a part of two sampling events on the headwaters of the Tygart Valley River in Mace, WV. These samplings were conducted to give us a baseline count of macroinvertebrate life, so that we can continue to monitor this population as work progresses on the NIOSH Facility in Mace. To learn more about this project, click here.

Roaring Creek Project:

Pictured Above: Martin Christ & ALL-CON Construction Manager, Dave Irle, overlooking the treatment ponds constructed on Roaring Creek to combat AMD.

This project is a very proud accomplishment in 2022 for STTWA that would not be possible without grant funding. Generally speaking, STTWA performs the initial work in assessing areas that need rehabilitation, such as this project, then taking that information to the WVDEP and other partners who assist us in the design and planning for such remediation. We apply for grant funding and go through a bidding process to determine who will do the heavy lifting for us and bring our visions into reality. Without our partners, a project like this would never be possible. We cannot express enough how thankful we are for these folks and our grant opportunities.

The Roaring Creek project works to combat acid mine drainage by retaining water in three limestone sand treatment ponds where the alkaline nature of crushed lime both acts as a physical buffer and a neutralizer for acidic compounds in the water. Though "phase one" is complete, STTWA has plans to add to this project in the future to hopefully remediate all impacts from the mine outflow on Roaring Creek. Once fully complete, STTWA will continue to monitor the water quality moving forward to assess the functionality of the project and help with upkeep.

Pictured Above: Mine outflow entering Roaring Creek's drainage before the STTWA project was in place. Note the orange color to the streambed and water, as this indicates the presence of iron and other toxic compounds.

Beaver Creek Project:

Being one of our upstream-most projects, Beaver Creek is an important tributary to us here at STTWA. The age-old saying always goes "What happens upstream affects everything downstream." Which leads me to comment on why we value the health of Beaver Creek... Like most of our other project streams, Beaver Creek too is affected by acid mine drainage. With that being said, impacts from AMD tributaries far upstream in a watershed trickle down and affect the entire main stem of their respective river (Tygart) from that point down. This means Beaver Creek's AMD affects the towns of Junior, Belington, Philippi, Grafton, & clear through Fairmont WV!

Our efforts on Beaver Creek consist of dumping limestone sands into the streambed and bank so that in periods of high water the stream will slowly sweep away the lime and neutralize the downstream water. This is a simple passive treatment method, however it requires keeping up with lime dumping as needed. In 2022 alone, we dumped 144 tons, yes TONS, of limestone into Beaver Creek and its tributaries.

That's 288,000 pounds!

Pictured Above: A limestone sand treatment via dump truck (for scale of how much lime is needed of course). Picture taken on a WVDNR project stream in WV. Photo by The Charleston Gazette.

Carr China Project:

Carr China is a special place for us, as it will be the future home of STTWA! This year we worked with various partners to build plans for the property. Located right on the banks of the Tygart Valley River in Grafton, WV, Carr China sits just downstream of Tygart Dam. This property was once the site of a china factory... you probably guessed by the name...

When Carr China closed down, it became a Brownfields site under the federal Environmental Protection Agency. To learn more about Carr China click here. STTWA's goal is to remediate the site by constructing over the lead-containing soils with fill dirt per EPA standards to essentially "cap" the contaminants and keep them from leaching to the surface. In doing so, we aim to build our new office space and much more. We can't fully spoil the surprise yet, but we aim to make the property benefit the whole community.

In 2022, we hosted our first ever public engagement event on our property which came in the form of a kayak race and river float festival. We learned a lot from the event & have plans for it to return bigger and better in the future! Members of our community had the opportunity to meet with us and take part in arts and crafts, learn about water quality, and enjoy a fun dip in the Tygart Valley River. This event would not have been possible without the approval from the City of Grafton, the Taylor County Commission, and our friends at the Taylor County Adventure Club!

Pictured Above: "Tygart Tubers" getting ready to launch during the STTWA kayak race & river float festival 2022.

Pictured Above: Festivities at the Carr China property soon to be the home of STTWA during the kayak race & river float festival 2022. Fish artwork by STTWA President, Stan Jennings.

Pictured Above: First official banner for the STTWA kayak race & river float festival, thank you to our sponsors at CEC!

Pictured Above: Wooden artwork fish created by our members, members of the community, and members from the Taylor County Arts Council. A special thank you to the Taylor County Arts Council for being an invaluable partner to STTWA through 2022!

We've had a great year, but this isn't only a time to look back, as it’s also a time to look forward to Christmas and the New Year! Our goal is to build on our progress and keep getting better. We can’t express enough how appreciative we are of the members of our communities that supported us through this year. Without help from our members, volunteers, partners, donors, grant providers, local municipalities, and our local counties none of this would have been possible.

What do we want for Christmas?

We want more than anything to see the health of our watershed continue to improve. The benefits from clean water are far greater than any material Christmas gift, for each and every one of us benefit directly! In order for us to do bigger and better things, we need your help! Consider volunteering, becoming a member, run for a board position, or spread the word. If you are an outdoors / Tygart Valley River watershed based group, reach out to us, as we are always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other members of our community! Thank you to those who have interacted with us throughout 2022... On to 2023!

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