Our water chemistry results show that during the time of this event, the Mouth of Muddy Creek had dissolved aluminum levels nearly 7 times over the state water quality standard for aquatic life, and over 50 times the standard for trout. Iron was 10 times over the standard for aquatic life and for human Recreational Contact. Conditions worsened just downstream of the confluence of Muddy Creek and the Cheat, where harmful metals continued to fall out of solution as low pH water mixed with neutral water - here dissolved aluminum was nearly 9 times greater for aquatic life, 74 times greater for trout. Iron was 15 times greater for aquatic life and human Recreational Contact. The Cheat mainstem on river right continued to have degraded water quality, including levels of iron above the threshold for human Recreational Contact for nearly 3 quarters of a mile downstream of the confluence with Muddy Creek.
At this time, FOC can assume based on the conditions described above that there was severe impact to any aquatic life that had recently reestablished in Muddy Creek, and likely harm to those that existed on river right of the Cheat Mainstem. Monitoring of benthic macroinvertebrates and fish will allow for Friends of the Cheat and other partners to truly understand the full impact of the treatment failure. Surveys are tentatively planned for Spring and Fall of 2021. Only then will we gain a full and accurate picture of how this event impacted our biotic community.
Understanding the true impact of this event through aquatic surveys will also give us a picture of what to expect in the future if long term concerns are not addressed regarding the feasibility of the plant to treat large pulses of water.
An additional concern stems from this idea: What if treatment failure were to occur again after a concentrated rain event in Muddy Creek during the summer period, when flows in the Cheat are low? The idea that “dilution is the solution to pollution” is outdated, incorrect, and frankly, we can do better. The Cheat is so much more than a vehicle to transport water and pollutants downstream; it is a living, breathing, tenuous ecosystem that has only just recently recovered. Without advocacy for its protection and demands for improved conditions, we could lose what we only so very recently regained.
Being complacent and accepting the status quo (“be thankful for what you’ve got!”) is not how rivers get restored. FOC will continue to challenge everyone, including WVDEP, to do better by: 1) meeting the basic legal requirements of their NPDES permits, 2) developing a response plan for future events, 3) setting measurable goals for restoration of Muddy Creek, 4) planning for challenges to treatment and pursuing innovative options in light of climate change forecasting, and 5) communicating challenges and shortcomings promptly and transparently with FOC and other critical partners.
FOC will continue to offer our support to the WVDEP, particularly through our experience developing emergency spill plans for our treatment sites, our work on Source Water Protection Planning, and familiarity with communication and interaction with the public.
CHEAT FEST MONTH UPDATES
27th Annual Cheat River Festival Artwork by the amazing John Victor
Cheat Fest Love Video: VIRTUAL - Last year, we asked for music - this year, we want to see your smiling faces! Send us a video about how much you love Cheat Fest and why the Cheat River is important to you. You can use your phone (horizontal video please!) or a camera, have a friend help or shoot it as a selfie. Upload your video to the link below by April 18th, and our team will gather them together to share with the Cheat Fest community. We can’t wait to see what you send us!
Cheat Canyon Massacre-ence - Photo by Gabe DeWitt
Saturday, May 1 - Cheat Canyon Massacre-ence: IN-PERSON (distanced) - As the official kick-off to Cheat Fest, virtual or not, we’re so excited to safely host the downriver race this year. There are some important changes to note: Registration is ONLINE ONLY, and the race will have 2 heats (10:00am for class A/B/C boats 10ft and over; 10:30am for class D boats 9.11ft and under plus rafts and catarafts/shredders).
Racers can check in (remember, online registration only!) Saturday morning starting at 8:30am - at the FOC - Laurel Highlands Parking Lot in Albright, WV. Shuttle on your own using the FOC and Laurel Highlands parking lots and Jenkinsburg parking area. It’s highly suggested to run it early, as we will be keeping to the heat starts for accuracy in timing. If you miss your start time you will be bumped to the next heat.
Registration is $35 - which includes a t-shirt (if you register by April 10th) and the ACA membership fee. Head over to www.cheatfest.org/2021-cheat-river-massacre-ence/ for all the details! Huge thanks to Heather Rau for coordinating this year!
Saturday, May 1 to Saturday, May 8 - Cheat Fest Silent Auction: VIRTUAL - With items coming in from many of our alumni vendors, artists, and sponsors, this year’s online silent auction has a great assortment of boating gear, gift baskets from local businesses, handmade art, experience packages, and so much more. We’re still accepting item donations - please contact our coordinator, Lisa Maraffa, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to contribute. A preview of the auction items will go live on Friday, April 30th - and the auction begins at noon on Saturday and will be live for one week. Good luck, bidders!
Saturday, May 1 - Cheat Fest Live-streaming Music: VIRTUAL - It wouldn’t be Cheat Fest without a great lineup of local music - this year, look for live-streams from members of Stewed Mulligan, The Hillbilly Gypsies, 18 Strings, Aristotle Jones, and Meadow Run!
Sunday, May 2 - Cheat Canyon Whitewater Surf Contest: IN-PERSON (distanced) - Downriver Racers and local paddlers - get ready for the first ever Cheatfest Whitewater Surf Contest. There will be a division for both kayakers and rafters. Water Levels will likely dictate where the exact location(s) the contest will be held on the river, so keep an eye out for final details announced online and posted at the down river race Saturday morning. As most of us know the Cheat Canyon has many class (3-4+) rapids along the way. Only people with experience running the Cheat should consider entering the contest. Also know if you participate in the event, you are doing so at your own risk. Play it safe and have fun. Prizes will be given at the judges’ discretion. Let's see who has the steeziest moves!
Sunday, May 2 - Adopt-a-Highway: IN-PERSON (distanced) - Volunteer your time with FOC in our Cheat Fest ‘Make It Shine’ litter pickup along Rt. 26 in Albright, WV. Participants can meet up with FOC staffer Beth Warnick at the Cheat River Festival site at 1:00pm. Bags, gloves, and pickup sticks will be provided.
Saturday, May 8 - Gritstone Vertical Challenge: IN-PERSON (distanced) - Get ready to see how high you can climb. FOC is partnering with Gritstone Climbing and Fitness and the Cheat Canyon Climbing Club to introduce newbies and engage seasoned climbers during Cheat Fest month. This challenge, hosted at the Gritstone gym in Morgantown, WV, is all about seeing how many vertical feet you can cover using routes of any level. For $15, enter the Ascension Adventure for a chance to win a Grand Prize. There will be art, a food truck, and music!
Sunday, May 16th - Kids Tent Art Day: IN-PERSON (distanced) - Eddie Spaghetti Art, Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission, and Preston Trail Towns are hosting a Kids' Art Day on the Cheat Fest grounds. Starting at 1:00pm, kids will get creative and messy as they work with Eddie on a collaborative mural to be installed at the new Tunnelton Trailhead Park at the West Virginia Northern Rail Trail. This event is open to all kids and teens, and is a great opportunity for families to re-connect with the Cheat Fest site.
Sunday, May 23 - Big Bear XC Classic - WVMBA XC: IN-PERSON (distanced) - Get your sweat on at the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association’s Big Bear Classic mountain bike race - hosted at Big Bear Lake Campgrounds in Bruceton Mills, WV. Click here for more information!
Saturday, May 29th - Gritstone Gym to Crag: IN-PERSON (distanced) - Explore the fundamentals of climbing outside with the Gritstone team. We’ll be meeting up at the FOC Campground (139 Beech Run Rd, Albright, WV 26519). There, you’ll learn about the history of climbing in the area, enjoy a guided hike, and experience climbing on real rock. Make it an epic Memorial Day Weekend by camping out at FOC’s campground afterwards!
Saturday, May 8th through Sunday, May 16th - 5K Foot Race: VIRTUAL - You don’t have to be in Preston County to compete in the Cheat Fest Virtual 5K race this year! During the open race period you will run a 5K (3.1 Miles) on your own, at the safe physical distance from others! If you can’t get outside; run it inside! Runners will track their own times, and completion is based on the honor system. Registration is $5 - and participants will have the opportunity to personally fundraise for FOC through friends, family, and other supporters. More information and registration links coming soon to cheatfest.org!
MORE EVENTS AND DETAILS COMING SOON TO CHEATFEST.ORG!
Friends of the Cheat Announces First Project Partners for its Preston Trail Towns Partner Program
by Kelley Burd-Huss
Friends of the Cheat (FOC) is pleased to announce its first class of 2021 Preston Trail Towns Partner Program Project Partners. Preston Trail Towns is an innovative community economic development program funded by Friends of the Cheat’s initial $3.2 million RECREATE AML Pilot grant. As the RECREATE Project reaches new milestones, FOC and other community organizations are adding nearly 19 miles of new trails to Preston County in the next year. Preston Trail Towns bridges communities on the trail by helping organizations, small businesses, and entrepreneurs capitalize on the recreational and tourism opportunities these new trails bring. Preston Trail Towns and the Partner Program are just one piece of an expansive strategy FOC is leading to intentionally develop and promote destination-worthy hiking and biking trails in Preston County and beyond.
The first class of Preston Trail Towns Project Partners represent the best of what Preston County offers in terms of creativity and community-led innovation, successfully preparing Preston County communities for the outdoor recreation opportunities to come. These projects embrace a diverse range of approaches to the challenges our communities face, and each project elevates a unique part of what makes Preston County’s trails great places to enjoy the outdoors.
For each project, FOC is providing in-kind resources, technical support, and funding when necessary to execute key components of the projects. The first six projects in this exciting new initiative include:
Preston County Parks and Recreation’s Tunnelton Trailhead Park: FOC is supporting PCPaRC’s effort to develop the Tunnelton Trailhead Park on the West Virginia Northern Rail-Trail by providing assistance and support for public art and security measures, creating a safe and family-friendly gathering space on the Rail-Trail.
West Virginia Scenic Trails Association’s Allegheny Trail Information Kiosks: FOC is materially supporting the WVSTA’s construction and installation of trailside kiosks on the Allegheny Trail (ALT) in Rowlesburg and Albright. These kiosks will better connect the ALT to these Trail Towns, and will provide hikers and residents with a place to share information about events, activities, and points of interest on the Trail.
Rowlesburg Park Commission’s Accessible Bathroom and Concession Upgrades: FOC is collaborating with the Rowlesburg Park Commission to convert an existing Park Bathroom to a Family Restroom with accessible toilet and diaper changing facilities, as well as upgrade the plumbing in the Bathrooms and Concession Stand.
Town of Rowlesburg and Rowlesburg Volunteer Fire Department’s Riverfront Development Project: FOC is providing technical support to the Rowlesburg Volunteer Fire Department and Town of Rowlesburg to prepare Town and Fire Department lands for further development as a community gathering place, event venue, and riverside walking trail.
McGrew House’s Arboretum Map and Champion Tree Project: FOC is providing support to Kingwood’s McGrew House to develop maps and information regarding the rare and Champion Trees on the McGrew House Grounds. This project adds a new dimension of interest and storytelling to the McGrew House’s mission to preserve and share Preston County’s history with Prestoninans and beyond.
SUP Cheat’s Outdoor Recreation Co-Op and Standup Paddleboard Program: FOC is supporting SUP Cheat, a co-op of fitness and wellness practitioners in North Central West Virginia providing outdoor group exercise opportunities in Preston County. Specifically, FOC is supporting their Standup Paddleboard (SUP) Programming, introducing Trail Town communities to the sport, including SUP Yoga, SUP fishing, and other activities.
FOC and Preston Trail Towns will be accepting new Partner Program applications for its second round of Project Partners beginning April 5. Click here for more information about the Partner Program, or contact Kelley Burd-Huss, Preston Trail Towns Coordinator at 304-276-9956 or email@example.com.
FOC is utilizing the momentum from its Preston County Master Trail Plan to further develop the Mountaineer Trail Network Authority. Fueled by grants from the Just Transition Fund, FOC and project partner Downstream Strategies are seeking to expand the trail planning to the rest of the counties within the MTNA. The project team has started by convening meetings with the appointees from each county for the beginning phases of the creation of the Mountaineer Trail Network Authority. Once the authority is officially recognized with fully enacted by-laws and board members, segments of the Preston County Master Trail Plan become one step closer to construction. This is a multi-year, long view effort that seeks to not only bring additional trails and outdoor tourism-focused advertising to Preston County, but to all counties within the MTNA. We certainly believe that the trail systems and trail towns that make up this region of WV are truly destination-worthy and we are seeking to market, expand, and develop these assets for locals and tourists alike. - Owen Mulkeen, FOC Associate Director
For more information about the Mountaineer Trail Network Authority, contact Owen Mulkeen at firstname.lastname@example.org.