Christmas comes early to the Buffalo Creek watershed
by Bob Fala
Some 40 years after the 1972 disaster devastated the now famous Logan County waterway taking more than 100 lives, the healing continues.
The long awaited news arrived this week from a bearded Santa over at the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District Office. The permit to essentially restore the stream from top to bottom was issued.
A host of private, government, stream restoration entrepreneurs and most notably the local bull-stubborn, rainbow trout insignia featuring Buffalo Creek Watershed Association worked in concert to bring the project to bear.
Having covered this process for the Banner for more than five years, if anything, it has been an exercise in persistence.
The permit is not only joyous news for the stream and its recovering fishery, it’s a model of sorts for the way the federal government wants to proceed with the oft dreaded and lengthy maize of getting coal, oil and gas, housing projects or even shopping malls up and running if they impact waters of the U. S., namely its streams and wetlands.
And that’s no small task in what has become a rather vicious and lawsuit driven atmosphere between environmental and impacting camps with the government agencies in the crossfire.
Under the related “no net loss” dictates of the federal government, proposed water impacts must be “mitigated” or compensated for.
The preferred way to do this is through up front “bank mitigation projects,” for which the Buffalo Creek proposal is a West Virginia prototype and an obvious priority per its rich history.
In fact, there is such a demand and relative shortage of the now preferred mitigation banks, the Buffalo Creek bank project has already been sold out per the Army Corps!
This means that the instream work involving natural stream channel techniques with hundreds of designed rock and log “fishing structures” as anglers call them can now commence.
Construction equipment was already en route per Perry Harvey, “kingpin” of the watershed association as he is kiddingly called by his cohort group of mostly retired local coal miners, Eddie Adkins, Johnny Doss and Arthur Brunty to name just a few.
In addition to the Corps, the WVDEP Division of Mining and Reclamation, WVDNR Coldwater Fisheries, the Appalachian Stream Restoration Folks, Empire Consulting and REIC Labs all contributed in some fashion.
Cliffs Natural Resources via Jim Kosowski was a major boost just when the project needed it most, for that last difficult yard over the goal line.
So stay tuned and to all a good night!
P.S. The watershed group meets tomorrow Dec. 17, at 6 p.m., at Buffalo Grade School. A chapter on the historical Buffalo Creek recovering trout fishery appears in Bob Fala’s book Ramblin’ Outdoors, available at the Banner Office or online at Woodland Press.
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