Local watershed groups making cleanup progress
The presidents of the county’s three watershed associations each reported on their group’s activities to the Morgan County Planning Commission last week.
Sleepy Creek Watershed
Gail Foulds said the Sleepy Creek Watershed Association is now 10 years old and has 100 members, including 25 “worker bees.”
A creek cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, April 9 and volunteers are needed.
The group’s riparian buffer projects saw 1,500 trees planted along the creek last year and the association worked with the State Division of Natural Resources and the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District to repair and restore stream banks.
The association received $487,586 in local, state and federal funds to focus on septic system runoff. Foulds said 62 septic systems had been pumped and 28 systems replaced at nominal cost to property owners.
Those who live along the creek can call the conservation district to arrange for assistance in getting a septic system pumped or replaced, she said.
The district still has grant
money and will pay up to $7,200 to replace a septic system, with the owner paying $300 of the costs, she said. The program ends in September.
The association, with the help of 75 volunteers, planted 520 trees in the Cacapon South community as part of a storm water runoff control project, Foulds said.
One new project is construction of a “demonstration pervious parking surface,” sized up to an acre, at Mountain View Solar in the Morgan County Business Park. A $20,000 grant has been awarded for the project.
Mountain View Solar plans to build a new building at the site. The project will allow for a smaller water retention pond.
Planning Commission president Jack Soronen asked Foulds what they could do to help.
Foulds said the commission should suggest that developers consider storm water runoff solutions such as rain gardens and pervious, rather than impervious, paving.
Warm Springs Run
Kate Lehman reported that Warm Springs Watershed Association has been voted the outstanding new watershed association by the State Department of Environmental Protection.
The watershed is 11.8 miles long and is “potentially a real benefit to the Town of Bath and tourists,” she said.
Lehman defined the watershed as starting above the intersection of Waugh Road and Winchester Grade Road, bordered on the west by Warm Springs Ridge and on the east by Horse Ridge and Pious Ridge, ending at the Potomac River.
She said the stream is in “remarkably good condition south of town,” but deteriorates as it passes through town and goes north. Testing has shown high levels of fecal coliform in the run in town and to the north.
The group planted 500 trees last year along the run to create riparian buffers. Some 120 were planted near Widmyer Elementary School by volunteers from the elementary and high school. Another 300 trees were planted on county-owned property along U.S. 522 south.
A watershed assessment was commissioned and completed by Shepherd University senior Kevin Wurster, who is majoring in Environmental Science.
The assessment will help the association qualify for grants to improve the stream. Lehman said she would report on the findings of the assessment at a later meeting.
She said the association continued its efforts to control invasive plants along the run last year.
They are working with West Virginia Fish & Wildlife to control purple loosestrife, the Division of Natural Recourses to control mile-a-minute plants and using a University of Pennsylvania protocol to control Japanese knotweed, she said.
Ron Wilson reported that the Friends of the Cacapon River started in the 1970s and now has 300 people on their mailing list. Most of the active members are “weekenders.”
Wilson said the upper reaches of the Cacapon River are polluted from discharge from two sewer treatment plants and from farm runoff in Hampshire County, but the lower reaches are much cleaner through Morgan County.
Soronen said when he flew his airplane over the river, he could see pollution running into the river from the sewer plants.
Wilson said one of the major issues is access to the river. He said the group is working with the state to provide a river access point when Fisher’s Bridge is replaced.
The group is also working to place a monument with a plaque commemorating the old bridge near the new bridge.
The group is monitoring the deteriorating condition of the old power dam downstream from the Rockport Bridge, he said.
Wilson noted other problems include unpredictable water levels and trash at access points. He said the group works to pick up trash, but needs more volunteers.