ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- The Coal River system, already the state's most rehabilitated watershed, will receive millions of dollars in additional therapy in coming years in the form of more than 100 sediment flushing dams, new sewer projects, and new tributary stream clean-ups.
"We're going to see the resurrection of a stream that [the nonprofit group] American Rivers once named one of the most endangered rivers in the nation," said Bill Currey, president of the Coal River Group's board of directors. Currey and several government agency officials announced the next phase of improvements earlier this week, during the CRG's annual fundraising dinner at Angela's on the River in St. Albans.
The new work will include the installation of silt-dispersing cross-vane dams from the U.S. 119's Little Coal River Road exit downstream to the Indian Head subdivision on the outskirts of St. Albans. The new work includes a near 20-mile stretch of the Little Coal and Main Coal rivers.
Since 2007, about 35 of the V-shaped dams, made of logs and boulders, have been installed in the Little Coal between McCorkle and U.S. 119 at Little Coal River Road. The dams direct the river into narrow channels, accelerating stream flow and carving deep pools around strategically placed boulders. Stream bottom rocks and gravel are scoured of sand and exposed to sunlight and oxygen, providing habitat for the aquatic insects and invertebrates that fish feed on.
Sedimentation from years of mining, timbering and development have left long stretches of the river system choked with sand.
Dennis Stottlemyer, mitigation coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said more than $3 million will be spent during the next several years on more than tripling the number of cross-vane dams and bank stabilization projects already completed on the Coal River system.
The money comes from stream loss mitigation funds collected mainly from mountaintop removal coal mining operations.
"As far as I know, this is the largest project of this type underway anywhere in the United States," he said.