save streams

West Virginia University Institute of Technology Biological Association members Cayte Vigilante and James Harper examine the water quality of Morris Creek while West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Save Our Streams Coordinator Tim Craddock watches.

MONTGOMERY — The Morris Creek Watershed Association has secured state funding to complete a stream bank stabilization project this fall.

The project will identify and repair portions of Morris Creek’s stream bank that have eroded away from high water events.

Morris Creek Watershed Association has been working with state officials from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the West Virginia Conservation Agency to complete this project.

The watershed group has received $477,000 in state funding to repair five sections of the stream. The majority of the restoration work will be completed along Morris Drive, the main access road into the Morris Creek Watershed area.

The first phase of the project will begin at Morris Lane Bridge and will continue downstream to the intersection of Possum Hollow and Morris Creek. The remaining sites will continue to the intersection of Fayette Pike and Riggs Street.

Addressing these problem areas along Morris Creek’s stream bank is a top priority for the watershed association. This project was identified in the watershed association’s watershed base plan, a document that watershed groups create to describe their efforts to restore a stream or watershed area back to its natural state.

The Morris Creek Watershed area has a long history of bituminous coal mining. Historical data shows the earliest date of mining started in the mid-1800s and ceased its operations in the 1980s. When mining was active in the watershed area, the mining companies redirected Morris Creek from its natural pattern several times, causing it to be a small stream with a reach of 5.1 miles. The redirection of the creek many decades ago is the culprit for the excess amount of sediment in the stream. Morris Creek’s stream bank today is not a natural stream bank and is composed mostly of loose sediment. When Morris Creek rises during a heavy rain fall, the velocity of the water causes the stream bank to erode away, thus filling the stream with more sediment.

In order to remedy this problem, Morris Creek Watershed Association created a proposal that identified 14 problem areas in the watershed. The problem areas where reviewed by state officials who assessed the property sites and determined which sites would be addressed. Of these proposed sites state officials decided to fix five areas that present the highest safety risks. These site-specific areas have homes that border the stream bank and the land is eroding away.

Property owners have completed the required forms to allow state workers to access their property. Once all individuals involved in the project receive a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the project will begin.

State workers have identified several ways to remediate the stream bank. The majority of the project will be fixed by rip rap, which is the placement of rocks of various sizes along the stream bank to help keep the soil from moving into the stream.

State officials prefer to use natural stream design, which is the installation of natural material into the stream to correct its sediment problem. However, this is not an option for Morris Creek because of the number of homes that border Morris Creek’s banks.

The watershed association has secured a donation of rock from Maple Mining Company to help complete the project. This donation allows workers to address as many of the problem areas until funding runs out.

Additionally, this project requires the watershed organization to complete a series of water samplings to determine if the project is successful. The MCWA sought out the help of West Virginia University Institute of Technology Biological Association members. Club members participated in a volunteer water monitoring class conducted by Tim Craddock, WV DEP Save Our Streams coordinator. Participants completed a four-hour class and then sampled two sections of the stream. The water monitors tested Morris Creek’s water quality and examined the stream’s benthic macroinvertebrates. Once individuals complete a test, they will become state-certified volunteer water monitors.

The first phase of water sampling is completed; volunteers will then be asked to complete water monitoring of the same areas when the project is finished. Results from both sampling events will be compared to determine if the stream’s aquatic life is responding to the project.

If you would like to join or volunteer at a service event hosted by the Morris Creek Watershed Association, please call 304-442-4581 or e-mail morriscreekwatershed@verizon.net. Monthly meetings are held the second Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m.

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