Buffalo Creek Watershed holds conference about stream restoration progress
by Debbie Rolen
Each of the five board members of the Buffalo Creek Watershed Association were affected by the 1972 Buffalo Creek Disaster when Pittston Coal Company’s coal slurry impoundment dam #3 burst sending a black wave of 132,000,000 gallons of waste water through 16 coal mining communities on Buffalo Creek.
There were 5,000 people living in the communities, where 125 were killed, 1,121 were injured, and over 4,000 left homeless. The destruction included 507 homes, forty-four mobile homes and 30 businesses. The streams and environment suffered damage that made the area unrecognizable to people who had lived there all their lives.
Perry Harvey, Edison Adkins, Arthur Brunty, John Doos and Dave Crawford formed the Buffalo Creek Watershed Association in 2005 to further their efforts to restore, preserve and establish Buffalo Creek as a trout stream.
“I Buffalo Creek is going to be one of the best trout streams in West Virginia,” said Perry.
At a meeting to recognize efforts being made to restore the stream, Edison Adkins reviewed events that occurred the morning of Feb. 26, 1972. Slides showing the communities before and after the tragedy were a graphic illustration of just how much destruction the raging water left in its wake.
Chris White with Appalachian Stream Restoration explained how that left a 13.2 mile stretch of stream not properly suited for fish and other aquatic species. White told the group recovery efforts made immediately after the disaster were to insure the stream was safe during storm events, and paid little attention to functional stream design.
In the fall of 2010, Buffalo Creek was heavily impacted by the discharge from an abandoned underground mine. The discharge caused severe discoloration of Buffalo Creek from the area of Proctor Hollow all the way down to its confluence with the Guyandotte River at Man.
The result of litigation following the discharge, a Consent Decree was entered that required penalties in the amount of $300,000 be paid into the DEP Stream Restoration Fund and be specifically dedicated for stream restoration and enhancement projects providing lasting improvements to the Buffalo Creek Watershed in Logan County. The Decree also required the company to pay $10,000 annually for a five-year term directly to the Buffalo Creek Watershed Association for its use in watershed and community improvements in the Buffalo Creek Community.
A plan for the complete restoration of Buffalo Creek is now in action and Chris White had slides depicting the installation of habitat improvement structures beginning at Crown and progressing upstream.
Ken Abraham with Mountain State Mitigation described enhancements completed on the upper portion of Buffalo Creek near Curtis.
Sulfur Lick was relieved of garbage, wood and metal lining the stream, which flowed in the roadway in many places. A step-pool system and log structures to improve the stream was installed. A road with proper drainage was built, the banks seeded and trees planted along the stream.
The $300,000 was used for the improvements to date and the Association and an additional $311,000 in funding has been authorized to complete restoration of the 13.2 mile stream.
Cliffs Natural Resources was recognized for their support, and
The association recognized the service and participation and awarded plaques to several organizations and individuals.
Mountain State Mitigation presented a check for $4,592 to the association, which was followed up by a check presentation by Cliffs Natural Resources of $20,000.
Every year the association hosts “Fish Day” on the first day of spring break. This year, the event will be held on Monday, April 1, and will be held regardless of what the weather will be. It will begin at the Justin McCoy Memorial Park.
Attendance is usually between 400-600. The association has fishing rods and tackle boxes to distribute during the event. There will be a private stocking near the park the day before the event, which is funded by donations of local individuals and businesses.
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