Stream project breaks ground at Holden

From right: Nick Dilks, of EIP, Bob Fala, director of W.Va. Division of Natural Resources, Colonel Leon Parrott, Commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District and Brittany Vascick, deputy general council to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin break ground on the stream restoration project at Copperas Fork in Holden.

Ecosystem Investment Partners (EIP) hosted a groundbreaking for their stream restoration project on the Copperas Fork stream in Holden on Mon., June 29.

EIP is working with the Canaan Valley Institute (CVI) on the project to develop the Southern W.Va. Mitigation Bank which will conserve 9,785 acres over three tracts of land in Logan McDowell Counties. Through work on the Southern W.Va. Mitigation Bank, EIP and CVI plan to restore around 50 miles of stream habitats while investing millions of dollars in construction and maintenance of mitigation sites.

A press release from the CVI states, “Restoration work will include rebuilding eroded stream channels with rocks and wood to create pools and areas of fast moving water, stabilizing eroding streambanks, moving roads out of stream beds, reshaping old timber and mining roads so that they no longer funnel storm runoff directly into streams, and removing old culverts that block flow and prevent fish and other aquatic animals from moving freely. In addition, CVI and partners are also using innovative methods to rebuild steep, headwater streams across mine benches and other challenging features in the rugged landscape. The project will also protect streamside habitat with extensive buffers where land disturbances will be limited. Taken together, this is the most comprehensive watershed restoration ever proposed in southern W.Va..”

At the groundbreaking held deep in the woods at the head of Holden, Nick Dilks, managing parter at EIP, addressed a crowd that included members of several departments of the state government as well as members of the Logan County Commission saying, “EIP firm was founded about 10 years ago. Our sole focus from the beginning has been to create resources through both capital and expertise to do large-scale land conservation and restoration all over the country. Our core focus is in mitigation. We focus typically in areas where the need for mitigation is very large…and where that mitigation can result in very large scale conservation projects. We first got involved thinking about W.Va. through our friends at the CVI…who had identified this part of the state as being an area that…has lots of impacts from economic development going on but also the need to offset those impacts to allow that sort of balance of economic development and conservation.”

The work on restoring Copperas Fork stream is being funded through a system called mitigation banking. In that system, a project that damages nearby wetland ecosystems is forced to buy mitigation credits from a mitigation bank. Once the Copperas Fork stream restoration is complete, companies will be be able to buy mitigation credits for the restored stream to offset any damage a project may incur upon local wetland habitats. The press release from CVI says, “These credits are available to project sponsors who need to offset disturbance caused by their project as required federal Clean Water Act. Credits created from this work will provide mitigation for major transportation and energy projects in southern West Virginia while restoring and protecting beautiful mountain streams and the plants and animals that depend on them.”

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