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Into the Canyon Winter 2020 Newsletter of Friends of the Cheat

Photo by Beth Warnick

Immediate Important Business

  1. Cheat Fest Vendor registrationCheat Fest Art Market, and Non-Profit Tent applications are all due February 15th.
  2. Join FOC at the Women & Water Exhibit Closing Ceremony - hosted at the Sleeth Gallery, WV Wesleyan College, Buckhannon, WV. The event will include poetry readings by Crystal Good and Susan Truxell Sauter, a gallery talk by Amanda Pitzer, and a special remembrance of the late, great WV activist, April Pierson-Keating.
  3. Please donate to the Short Family GoFundMe campaign, and help these wonderful FOC friends rebuild their lives after losing everything in their Preston County farmhouse last week to a devastating fire.

Cheat River Hero: Amanda Pitzer

Photo by Joel Wolpert

FOC's Executive Director, Amanda Pitzer, has been named a 2020 River Hero by River Network, one of the highest honors in the field of water conservation. The prestigious River Heroes Award recognizes and celebrates individuals whose efforts to protect and restore their local rivers and waters have been extraordinary in scope, scale, impact, and heart.

This is the second River Hero award to go to an FOC ED; the late Keith Pitzer was a recipient in 2010.

Amanda and former FOC E.D., Keith Pitzer

Growing up just south of Erie, PA, Amanda Pitzer has fond memories of searching for stream bugs in her neighborhood creek. She attended Allegheny College to study studio art and biology, which is reflected in her ability to weave together both worlds harmoniously.

"As little kids we would ride our bikes everywhere! One of our favorite destinations was the neighborhood creek (pronounced “crick”). We would spend hours stomping in the pools and flipping over rocks competing to see who could catch the biggest crayfish. Once I got older and participated in the Creek Connections program at my high school, I learned there was a lot more than crayfish under those rocks and that the bugs told us a story about stream health. Upon finding my first water penny in French Creek - I was hooked." - AP

She pioneered environmental outreach in WV by establishing a Youth Advisory Board in which local youth advocate for clean water through place-based learning, earning her the WV Watershed Network’s “Guiding Light” Award in 2008. In 2010, she became Friends of the Cheat’s Executive Director.

Amanda joined FOC during a tumultuous time in the organization. FOC’s Mapping & Monitoring Coordinator, Doug Ferris, passed in 2007, quickly followed by the passing of E.D. Keith Pitzer in 2009. Their untimely deaths were great losses to FOC and the community, and with them went large amounts of organizational knowledge. Amanda worked with staff Jessica Zamias and OSM VISTA Andrew Miller to regroup, reorganize, and direct FOC on a forward path.

Andrew Miller, DEP Northern Basin Coordinator Lou Schmidt, Jessica Zamias, Brian Hurley, and Amanda at the waterfall on Sovern Run.

The TWI project was already well underway in 2010 with the construction of two passive AMD treatment systems in the headwaters of Glade Run lined up. One of the most challenging aspects of the transition was maintaining trust with these engaged landowners. Also, during the project, the WVDEP lost a lawsuit, thus requiring all of their bond forfeiture sites (sites mined after 1977 whose operators forfeited their bonds and handed over reclamation and water treatment responsibilities to the state) to obtain NPDES permits and discharge cleaner water. Despite ultimately being a good thing for water quality, this development threw a wrench into the project - which was already behind schedule. What resulted was an intensive in-stream lime dosing study with WVDEP on Fickey Run - the watershed’s most polluted tributary. Project partners learned a lot about in-stream dosing in severely-impacted streams, and FOC concluded that dosing Fickey Run was not a viable option for watershed-scale treatment of Muddy Creek - the iron levels were just too high, resulting in copious amounts of metal-laden sludge in the stream bed and not enough alkalinity to provide uplift downstream.

As a result of the cumulative impacts of the TWI project, FOC’s other treatment systems, and continued work by WVDEP, over 25 miles of Cheat River main stem are no longer considered impaired for mining-related impacts, thus removing this stretch of river from WVDEP’s 303(d) list of impaired streams. In 2014, 3800 acres of the Cheat River Canyon were preserved, including 7 miles of the Cheat River.

Amanda Pitzer and Ed Maguire of WVDEP.

As Executive Director of FOC and throughout her career, Amanda’s accomplishments are extensive. Under Amanda’s leadership, FOC has constructed 9 additional AMD treatment systems, supported the establishment of the Upper Cheat Water Trail on a family-friendly section the river and aided in securing 9 public access sites, purchased over 18.09 miles of unused railroad property, secured funding for the Cheat River Rail-Trail for multi-use recreation along the Cheat River, and began testing E.coli levels in popular access and swimming sites and made the results publicly available for users.

Wonder Woman, Amanda Pitzer.

In 2017, Amanda was named a Wonder Woman by WV Living Magazine. Also that year, she testified in front of state legislature against relaxing water quality standards for carcinogens. Consistently involved in local environmental issues, Amanda is a source of knowledge for many. She has served on the Preston County Solid Waste Authority Board since 2012 and is a Board member of the Preston County Clean-Up Committee. She assisted in the development of a Source Water Protection Plan for the Cheat River, following the WV Water Crisis of 2014. Amanda staunchly advocated for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and is currently lobbying for the reauthorization of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), which is critical in protecting the Cheat River and in the continued restoration of AMD-impaired tributaries.

In just the last two years, Amanda and FOC’s efforts resulted in a new partnership with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to restore riparian (stream bank) habitat in the Cheat River watershed, and the securement of over $3 million in Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Pilot grant funds to build the Cheat River Rail-Trail, an outdoor learning park at Lick Run Portals, and establish a Trails Town initiative to support economic development in Preston County. FOC was named the 2018 Watershed of Year by WV Watershed Network.

Amanda Pitzer testifying against weakening pollution limits in 2017.

Amanda’s tireless and unwavering commitment to the Cheat River and its communities is an inspiration to her staff, colleagues, and local sister non-profit agencies. She is the Cheat River’s champion and primary defender, never compromising her integrity in the fight for improved water quality for the Cheat, and clean water for all. Her ability to bring together differing groups, have uncomfortable conversations, and consistently produce successful outcomes for the Cheat River is no small feat in the current political climate. Amanda’s vision of a revitalized Cheat River includes protected source water for public water supply, increased public user opportunities, and an influx of small businesses to flourish in the midst of the Cheat River renaissance that is occuring now. Most importantly, Amanda’s energy and dedication to improving life and resources around the Cheat River watershed is contagious, and urges our community and beyond to press ever-forward toward a better future.

Photo by Joel Wolpert

Still looking for water pennies - Photo by Joel Wolpert.

Into the Canyon - Newsletter of Friends of the Cheat - Winter 2020

Board of Directors & Key Personnel

Amanda Pitzer, Executive Director; Owen Mulkeen, Associate Director; Madison Ball, Restoration Program Manager; Garrett Richardson, Monitoring Technician; Valorie Dixon, Bookkeeper; Beth Warnick, Media & Outreach Specialist; Lauren Greco, Cheat Fest Coodinator

Board Members

Chair: Adam Webster, Vice Chair: Charlie Walbridge, Treasurer: Stratford Douglas, Secretary: Sarah Hinnant, Connie Miller, Ben Hogan, Rick Chaney, Zach Fowler, Michael Strager, Dani Martin, Rich Dennis, Lisa Maraffa

A Huge Thank You to our Donors and Sponsors

Cheat Watershed Sponsors - Walbridge Family Foundation, Charlie Walbridge, Margaret Walbridge, Eliza Walbridge, Patrick & Lisa Ward

Stream Stewards - Robert Uram, Susan & Don Sauter, David Brisell, Thomas & Hope Covey, Stratford Douglas & Jodie Jackson, Toddi Steelman & Joe Sinsheimer, John & Emy Hinnant, Szilagyi Family Foundation, Vickie Jenkins, Paul & Betty Connelly, Steelheimer Fund at the Chicago Community Foundation

From the period of October 25 through December 31, 2019

Canyon Contributors - Susan Gordon, Jessie Douglas, Downstream Strategies, Dr. Daniel Herring MD, Jay Mullen, Ann & Cecil Bill & Megan Carlson, *Correction to the Spring 2019 edition of Into the Canyon - Jim Murtha

Narrows Navigators - Charles Duffy, East-West Printing, Carl & Connie Ervin, Nancy Abrams & Dr. Stan Einzig, Margot Stiles, Mowry Smith III, Tim & Karen Adams, Richard Volkman, Steve Taylor, Heather Lukacs & Kyle Doerksen, Mark Gavin & Jodi Goodman, Don & Martha Ferguson, Brent Bailey, Kathrin Allen, Elizabeth Wilson & William Guthrie

Confluence Crew - Ann Clough, Daria & Randy Jones, Thomas Pue, Robert Vagnetti, Lea Childlow, Dr. Antonia Chadwick & Dr. Jeffrey Sarsfield, Taryn & Evan Moser, George Ulrich, Thomas Beres, Mac Thornton, David Gross, David Greenwald, Carlton & Anita Gutschick, Julia Rastelli, Amy Conger, Mark & Pam Poljak, Steven De Boer, Matthew Hokom, High Ground Brewing, Nancy Pietroski & David W. Smith, Judith Cronauer & Gerard Lechowick, Barry Tuscano

Five Forks Friends - Charles & Nancy Brabec, Caroline Coleman, Jen & Greg Short, David Stephens, Bob Spangler, Sharon Wolfe, Bill & Anna Mae Thorne, Mary Miller, Kathy Furbee & Martin Christ, Curtis Jones Jr., Thomas Batchelor, Peter Wentzel, Donna Weems, Michael Jacobs, Cindy Powell, Diane Macklin, Katharine Avary, John Sweet, Fern & Rita Mulkeen, Judith Clister, Elizabeth Clough

Good Ole Friends - Joan Breiding, Michael Burk, Caroline Richmond, Martha Summers, Mike Schroering, Rima Forrest, Saml & Brianna Wilson, Shannon Orcutt, William Sheppell, Richard & Deborah Koonse, Rachel Meininger, Jeffrey Bush, Kim Poland, Raymond and Shirley Hill, Donald Shelters, Paul Lange & Karen Frank, Nic Sanna, Beth Meininger, Frank Williams, Michael & Amy Savage, Gerald Andy, Edward Gertler, Drew Hunter, Fred Varner

#GivingTuesday Donors - David Brisell, Justin Cameron, Donald & Susan Sauter, Christie Warnick, Kathy DeWitt, Allie Smith, Adam Webster, Todd Fedak, David Barnett, Doren Burell, Gabe DeWitt, Katie Heisler, Jim Hunt, Jeanne & Josh Kaufman, Ryan Kuehn, Joan Pitzer, Chris Felton, Kyleen Reckart, Ben Badger & Jessica Zamias, Pat & Ellen Hamlin, John Harvey, Steven Jagodzinski, Chris Jenkins, Carly Kildare, Robert & Dee Leggett, Katie Plum, Jim Snyder, Sam & Brianna Wilson, Marjorie Wolfe, Jennifer Cooper, Glenn Child, Sarah Hinnant, Joey James, Jason Smith, Kaitlyn Snyder, Nikki Forrester, Dylan Jones, Jen & Greg Short, Jessica Spatafore, Mark & Suzanne Tomasi, Emily Carlson, Cara Damm, Jorge & Gale Flores, Kendra Hatcher, Virginia Hawker, Michal Jarnik, Janet & Dan Lenox, Everett Mulkeen, Amy Estep, Lynn Khalife

Susan Gordon Storytelling Event Donors - Susan Gordon, Fanny Crawford, Terry Lee, Stas' Ziolkowski, Barbara Elrod & her friend Tom, Brian Kessler, Jim West, Susan Hall-West, Adam Booth, John Peterson, Laura First, Ginny Simoneau, Kate Parrish, Beth Zang

CAPABLE Donors - Connie Miller, Andrew J. & Louisa Miller, the Miller-Pack Family, William R. Lickert, Jr., Newton Gorrell

Keith Pitzer Memorial Stage Fund Donors - Danielle Mucciarone, Wayne Baker, Sally Wilts & Duane Lazzell

Swim Guide Donors - Adam Webster

Whitewater Access Fund Donors - Charlie Walbridge, Coastal Canoeists

In Memorandum:

Danilo Orescanin II, 63, of Rowlesburg, joined all the witnesses gathered in Heaven on December 15, 2019. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 12, 1956 to Danilo and Kathleen (Wolfe) Orescanin. He graduated from Indiana University and served as Vice President for Asia Division of Pharmacia, LTD in Hong Kong, China. Dan was an avid fly fisherman and Trout Unlimited supporter.

Survivors include: his daughter, Alyson of Phoenix, AZ; mother, Kathleen of Rowlesburg; sister and brother-in-law Lori Haring and Daren of Elburn, Illinois; and two nieces, Kristen and Kelly Sivak. He was preceded in death by his father, Danilo; grandparents: Dallas and Virginia Wolfe of Rowlesburg and George and Nellie Orescanin of Weirton.

Raymond "Bob" Robert Hill, 90, of Morgantown, passed away on Monday, December 16, 2019, at Mon Health Medical Center. Bob was born in Fairmont, WV, on December 30, 1928, a son of the late Raymond Meredith and Ruth Alice (Carmichael) Hill.Bob was a Lt. Colonel in the Army/Airforce Reserve. He went on to work as a Purchasing Agent at the Department of Energy. He was a dedicated and loving family man. He was an avid fisherman. He was also a history buff, particularly the Civil War and West Virginia History.

Bob is survived by his wife of 52 years, Shirley; children, Randy Hill and wife, Jo-Ann, Tammy Saab and husband, Michael, David Watkins and Daniel Hill; grandchildren, Andrew and Matthew Saab, Josh Shuttlesworth, and wife, Jocelyn, Whitney Hill, Ashley Williams and husband, David; and great-grandchildren, Cameron, Chloe, and Bria. In addition to his parents, Bob was preceded in death by a sister, Ruth Ann Hall; sister-in-law, Barbara Gregory, and brothers-in-law, Ira Hall and Joseph Lewis.

Friends of the Cheat's New Monitoring Technician: Garrett Richardson

Garrett Richardson

Garrett was born and raised in Morgantown, WV and went to University High School. He attended WVU and graduated with a B.S. in Wildlife & Fisheries Resources, and a minor in Conservation Ecology. He is a 3rd generation WVU alumni with both my parents, grandparents, and brother, all being Mountaineers. He has been a Raft Guide on the Cheat River since 2013 working for Cheat River Outfitters.

After Garrett graduated from WVU, he spent two field seasons working on a National Rivers and Streams Assessment as a Fisheries Technician for an EPA project. Each summer, he and his team loaded 2 trucks with sampling equipment, a couple backpacks of personal gear, and headed out on a 6 month sampling road trip. All in all, they sampled over 100 rivers and streams across Oregon, Washington, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado. Most of the sites were in remote areas, which made it necessary to either hike the gear to the sites, or take rafts. Garrett’s job on the boat crew was to row the electroshocking raft down whitewater to perform fish surveys, habitat assessments, and take water quality samples.

Who/What had the most influence on you growing up? My grandparents - they had a cabin in Canaan Valley where I spent my summers as a kid - fishing the Blackwater with my grandpa, and picking blueberries with my grandma. This is where my connection with nature first started to grow. My grandma was an avid birdwatcher, while my grandfather was a lifelong fisherman.

Where’s your favorite place in the world outside of WV? I would have to say the Grand Canyon. Last year, with 2 weeks’ notice, I joined a 23 day rafting trip down the Colorado River. I got to row every rapid (including lava falls on my birthday!) and fell in love with the whitewater, incredible scenery, and solitude.

What’s your favorite spot in WV? My favorite spot in WV is, of course, the Cheat Canyon. It’s hard to choose where exactly, but I think hanging out under the cliff walls at High Falls is pretty hard to beat. Especially if it has been raining hard and all the small waterfalls are shooting off the cliffs.

What are you passionate about? My biggest passion in life, besides boating, is fishing. I love both fly-fishing for trout and spin-fishing for bass, catfish, muskie, and walleye. It was actually my obsession with fishing that got me into rafting. I wanted to learn how to paddle so that I could fish hard-to-access rivers like the Cheat Canyon, Upper Yough, and Dunkard Creek.

How do you recharge? With a nice float down a river, drinking good beer with good people, or a day of fishing with my dad.

What drew you to Friends of the Cheat? I was drawn to FOC after I started training as a guide in Albright. I heard so many good things. I attended my first Cheat Fest, and learned about the history of FOC. After that introduction, I was so impressed with the organization and its mission. I love the story of how FOC was formed by a small group of people in response to a local environmental disaster and how it has turned into such a great grassroots organization that is still kicking-ass 25 years later.

What else would you like us to know about you? That I can’t wait to get to know more of the amazing people in our community!

Meet Kelley Burd-Huss: Community Development Coordinator for Trail-Town Initiative

Kelley Burd-Huss

I just moved back to West Virginia after ten years away (five years in Madison, Wisconsin, and five years in Houston, Texas). I currently live in Stewartstown with my three children: Julian, 9; Petra, 3; and Luthor, 1. My husband, Dr. David Huss, will be joining us in July when he begins his work in Child Neurology and Neurodevelopment at WVU Medicine Children’s. He’s never lived in West Virginia, but you wouldn’t have known that unless I told you.

I am licensed as an attorney in Texas, but haven’t taken the Bar yet in West Virginia. I did my undergrad work at West Virginia University in International Studies, History, and Women’s Studies. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School. In Texas I worked in corporate tax, and did some family law and probate work. However, my real passion is for community development and sustainable economies, which brought me here!

Who/What had the most influence on you growing up? My Grandmother. She’s turning eighty this year, and she spent a lot of time taking care of me while my mom was in school and beginning her teaching career. A lot of the values I hold with regard to inclusivity and supporting people from all walks of life come from her. Grams’s influence is a large part of why I am happiest when I am using my skills and talents in service to people who need help, and why I am constantly looking for sustainable solutions to community challenges.

Where’s your favorite place in the world? It depends on the situation and the time of year. For the purposes of this question, I’ll leave out West Virginia. If I’m feeling bookish, I love the Library of Congress’s main reading room. It’s so warm and quiet and you feel like you’re participating in history just by doing work there. Otherwise, I loved studying abroad on the island of Saaremaa off of the coast of Estonia. We stayed on a “tourist farm” there, and it was the first time I really noticed that there is a market for people from urban areas who want to experience nature and agriculture in an authentic and fun way.

What are you passionate about? Community Development. When I lived in Houston, Texas, I got to participate in a grassroots community of everyday people working to sustainably shape development in Houston’s Third Ward, which is experiencing rapid gentrification. I sincerely believe there is a way to build strong and healthy communities without harming workers, the environment, or a community’s authentic character. I could talk for hours about community reinvestment efforts, alternative funding sources for community projects, and grassroots community planning.

What’s your secret talent? Trivia. Fifteen years ago, I represented WVU in the Jeopardy! College Championship (2004). I made it out of the first round, and lost to the gentleman who won the entire championship. I don’t play trivia often, except for this quasi-secret worldwide community of trivia ringers.

How do you recharge? Great question! I have three kids, so recharge time is really something special. Usually, I like to read science fiction or fantasy, or do some work with my hands. I recently started doing blackwork embroidery, which I really enjoy. My current projects are a stitch-along where a small portion is revealed every week, and the shape of West Virginia filled with blackwork motifs. I also just like to walk down to the pond on my land, and sit on my “thinking rock.” But capturing the time for that is a rare gift.

What’s your favorite spot in WV? At the moment, the River Road. I love driving it. In Preston County, distracted driving has nothing to do with cell phones. It has everything to do with the distractingly beautiful river and its scenery. I can’t wait until we have a finished rail-trail to take in the breathtaking views on two wheels!

What drew you to Friends of the Cheat? FOC’s bold vision for Preston County, and their smart use of AML Pilot funds, drew me to this work. Sometimes, it is hard to be engaged in community and conservation work and maintain drive and hope for the future. The folks on FOC’s team and the community supporting them are so warm, welcoming and hopeful. They know that the Cheat River Valley is special, and that sharing the river with others can improve the lives of all Prestonians.

Anything else you’d like us to know about you? We moved back to West Virginia because we wanted our children to have a childhood focused on creativity, being outside, and ethical/moral development. We want our kids to develop a toolbox that will serve them well in life, and that means being in a place where they learn what is truly important, and where there is hope for their future.

I believe West Virginia can and will be a better place to live than it already is by the time our children reach adulthood. West Virginians are at an advantage in terms of how local economies are going to be developing. We know how to live in community, and there’s an increasing part of the American population who has never experienced community in the way we live it. By inviting others into our neighborhoods and a piece of our lives, we can help heal the world. And the Cheat River Valley is in a unique position for this work. I can’t wait to play a role in Prestonians showing the world what it means to be a community and the joy that comes from connecting with nature and one another.

Cheat River Festival Updates

Cheat Fest Raft Race - Photo by Gabe DeWitt

Mark your calendars - we’ll see you at the 26th Annual Cheat River Festival, May 1st and 2nd, 2020!

Cheat Fest brings together families, outdoor athletes, environmental advocates, music fans, art lovers, and volunteers, all on the banks of the Cheat River in celebration and solidarity of the river we love and the work that we do to restore and protect it. The festival is Friends of the Cheat’s primary fundraiser, and proceeds from Cheat Fest have supported our restoration work since the very beginning -- when the river ran red with toxic acid mine drainage pollution.

Twenty six years later, after decades of clean-up efforts, the river supports a robust fishery and growing paddling community. While we have come so far in our restoration efforts, there is still much to be done, and a continued need for restoration and protection throughout the watershed. Read below to learn about a few ways you can get involved!

Help Rain Proof the Festival -- Become a Sponsor! Sponsorship directly supports the financial stability of the festival and subsequently of Friends of the Cheat. The difference between a rainy and sunny festival can mean tens of thousands of dollars for FOC, money used to support our salaries and our restoration work. Festival sponsorship helps to ensure a successful festival regardless of the weather. If you’re interested in supporting the festival and Friends of the Cheat as a sponsor, contact Beth Warnick at bwarnick@cheat.org!

Volunteer! Cheat Fest is a groundswell of effort shared by hundreds of folks. We work alongside over 300 volunteers, many of whom have been around since the beginning, and helping to steer the ship (raft?) is a rock star team of lead volunteers. This year we’re looking for a few new leaders to help us have an even smoother festival! If you’re interested in jumping in on one of these roles, read more and reach out to Lauren directly at cheatfest@cheat.org!

A few new roles...

  • Tech Troubleshooter (Day-of): Internet, phones, Square store - oh my! We need an on the grounds, on call tech troubleshooting hero festival weekend.
  • Ed Eddy Coordinator (Pre-Fest & Day Of): Help organize a series of talks all about what makes the watershed fascinating
  • FOC Store Assistant Lead (Day-Of): Help us keep the FOC store ship sailing smooth
  • Public Parking Person (Day-Of): Passionate about tetris? Love a good workout? Let’s talk.
Cheat Fest Art Market - Shimrock Guitars - Photo by Gabe DeWitt

Artists, Vendors & Non-Profits: Registration is Open! Applications are up! Vendor applications can be found at here - due Feb. 1st.

Art Market applications and are here; and Non-Profit applications are here - due February 15th!

Workshops & Public Talks - Interested in becoming involved in the festival by hosting a workshop or public talk in our Education Eddy tent? This could be anything from a morning yoga class, a deep dive into the history of paddling in West Virginia, a plant walk, an art project, and beyond! If you’re excited to bring your passion to the festival in this way, contact Lauren at cheatfest@cheat.org.

Coming Events

2/6/20 - Women and Water Exhibit Closing Event, 4:00pm-7:00pm, Sleeth Gallery, WV Wesleyan, Buckhannon, WV

2/8/20 - Coopers Rock Foundation, Winterfest 2020, 10:00am, Day Use Parking Lot at Coopers Rock State Forest, Morgantown, WV

2/21/20 - Friends of Blackwater, Backcountry Film Festival 2020, 5:30pm, Whitegrass XC Ski Center, Davis, WV

2/29/20 - High Ground Brewing, Delbert Release Party and Short Family Benefit with Greg Short & Friends, 12:00pm-10:00pm, Terra Alta, WV

4/4/20 - West Virginia Land Trust Blue Jean Ball, 6:00pm, Camp Muffly, Morgantown, WV

4/25/20 - Friends of Deckers Creek 14th Annual Spring Meltdown, 6:00pm, Morgantown Brewing Company, Morgantown, WV

5/1-2/20 - 26th Annual Cheat River Festival, Albright, WV