To ensure that streams will have enough sand to maintain water quality in early spring, when brook trout eggs hatch and the fry swim up out of the spawning gravel, Rebinski makes sure each creek receives a large pile of sand in late fall.
"The swim-up stage occurs right at the time when acid snowmelt is at its highest, so it's important that we make sure we have enough sand there to protect the young trout," he explained.
On average, each treated stream receives a dozen 24-ton truckloads of sand each year. Rebinski said the sand comes from two quarries - Greer Limestone in Pendleton County and Boxley Materials in Pocahontas County.
"Those are the only quarries in the state that have limestone with the right amount of calcium in it," he explained. "For the sand to work, it has to be more than 90 percent calcium carbonate. Anything less won't [dissolve] fast enough.
"The sand-sized particles are small enough to be washed downstream by the stream's currents, where it eventually settles on the bottom, down in crevices between the rocks. When the water gets high, the sand gets kicked back up into the current and moved again and again until it finally breaks down and disappears."
The limestone sand program got a huge boost in 2003, when Virginia-based Dominion Resources contributed $2 million to the cause as part of a multi-state settlement for air pollution caused by the company's coal-fired power plants. DNR officials created an endowment with the money and use the endowment's earned interest to pay the program's yearly costs.
Brown said having a dedicated and reliable funding source "helps immeasurably, because liming is a permanent commitment."
"When we take on [a] stream, we do it with the idea we'll be continuing to treat it forever," he added. "We don't want to be in the business of restoring trout streams and then letting them die again."
DNR officials have also improved fishing in several state lakes by placing limestone sand into the streams that flow into them.
"Limestone treatment has turned Summit Lake into a year-round fishery. People are catching trout through the ice there, even in the dead of winter. We've also seen fishing improve in [Greenbrier County's] Lake Sherwood, [Babcock State Park's] Boley Lake, [Hardy County's] Rock Cliff Lake and [Barbour County's] Mill Creek Reservoir," Brown said.
"But Cheat Lake and the lower Cheat River are probably enjoying the greatest benefits from the limestone program. Half our total tonnage of limestone sand ends up in the Cheat River watershed. It's no surprise that bass fishing has improved dramatically on the lower Cheat, and bass tournaments are being held on Cheat Lake. Twenty years ago, neither of those things would have been possible."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.