Immediate Business:

  • THIS WEDNESDAY, 7/28/21 - Horseshoe Run Snorkel Workshops Horseshoe Recreation and Campground Area. FOC staff will be hosting free snorkel workshops in Horseshoe Run outside of St. George, WV. Sessions will begin at 2:00, 4:00, and 6:00 pm and will last approximately one hour. All ages welcome, FOC masks and snorkels available for use. Contact madison@cheat.org for more details or questions.
  • THIS WEEKEND, 7/31/21 - 8/1/21 - Allegheny Trail Work in Cheat Canyon (2nd Annual) - Albright, WV. Join West Virginia Scenic Trails Association (WVSTA) and FOC for a weekend of trail work and camping headquartered at Friends of the Cheat Primitive Campground. To RSVP or for more information, contact Section 1 Coordinator Mitch Klein at mitchellleeklein@gmail.com

Into the Canyon - Newsletter of Friends of the Cheat Summer 2021

Board of Directors and 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 and Outreach Specialist

Board Members

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


Cheat River Rail-Trail

by Owen Mulkeen

FOC’s most recent WVDEP AML Pilot grant, RECREATING (Reclaiming the Cheat River as an Economic Asset through Trail Infrastructure and Nurturing Greenspaces), is moving through the exciting design phase of the project. FOC received grant funds in 2019 for revitalizing the former coal preparation plant, colloquially known as the Preston Site, into a proper functional trailhead for both rail-trail and river usage.

Our procured team of engineers and architects, Potesta & Associates and Mills Group, have been working closely with FOC staff to deliver the correct vision and layout for the site. We are excited to share that vision in a well-thought-out masterplan that allows for future expansion and infrastructure.

You will notice the proposed future office (remote workers, yes please) and event center, coupled with an overlook tower. We don't have the luxury of constructing those now, but with a little persistence, fundraising, and the almighty pedigree of grant writing at FOC, we have big dreams for the future.

Cheat River Dreaming - the proposed FOC Headquarters and overlook tower - design courtesy of Mills Group

Coming back to reality and working within the confines of a somewhat lean budget for construction (~$750,000, nice things are expensive), we’re focusing on the needs of the everyday user.

The site comprises 17.5 acres, transected by the rail-trail corridor, essentially dividing the site into two areas. The first being an improved vehicular access from Route 72 via an upgraded entryway with enhanced line-of-sight up and down the busy scenic by-way. The entrance leads you down into the second area, the former belly of the industrial beast that was the Patriot Mining Preparation Plant.

Patriot Mining Preparation Plant in 1980
Patriot Mining Preparation Plant in the 1990's

Here visitors will find a newly sculpted greenspace, verdant ponds and wetlands, and trails that lead you to the river and make small winding connections to the Cheat River Rail-Trail. There will be ample parking for over 30 vehicles, and design aspects that allow for bus and larger vehicles to unload and offload passengers.

For some of the more far flung travelers we hope to see making the trip to Preston County, the bathroom could be an exciting and welcome sight. But wait there's more…

The feature we’re so very excited about, the true gem of the space, is the Keith Pitzer Pavilion, a fitting centerpiece that will honor the legacy of Keith and his efforts within the Cheat River community and beyond.

Designed by Mills Group to reflect the industrial past of both the river and the space, we envision the pavilion hosting everything from live music to award ceremonies for the future 5K foot races on the rail-trail.

Accompanying the pavilion is a small “pop-up” building that allows for flexible usage such as bike rentals or food service. These structures will be paid for by a WVDOH Recreation Trails Fund ($150,000 in grant funds and $37,500 cash match from the Keith Pitzer Memorial Stage Fund) and constructed by the WVDEP AML grant construction contractor.

We long to see the trailhead playing host to large gatherings and events as the greenspace within the site is prime for acting as its own destination. It will truly be a great place to come and relish in just being there, even if you don't want to ride your bike on the trail or raft the Narrows section.

We anticipate construction of both the Cheat River Rail-Trail and the Cheat River Trailhead to begin in 2022. Please reach out to Associate Director Owen Mulkeen if you have any burning questions about the rail-trail and trailhead - it has been quite the process.

A Huge Thank You to our Donors!

Cheat Watershed Sponsors: Walbridge Family Foundation, Charlie Walbridge, Eliza Walbridge, Patrick & Lisa Ward, Thomas & Hope Covey

Stream Stewards: Robert Uram, Susan & Don Sauter, David Brisell, Stratford Douglas & Jodie Jackson, Toddi Steelman & Joe Sinsheimer, John & Emy Hinnant, Szilagyi Family Foundation, Paul & Betty Connelly, Healthberry Farm, Jen Sass & Michael Graham, Robert Moore, The Reed Foundation, The Oakland Foundation, Megan & Bill Carlson, Meredith Pavlick, Giles Wright

For the period March 22 through June 22

Canyon Contributors: Tyler Mayhew & Mary Luckini, Bill Pennington, Dr. Darren Tanner, Downstream Strategies, Don Millard

Narrows Navigators: Adam Webster, Caitlin Sullivan, Ryan Kuehn, Robert Moore, Eric Lee, Kelly Miller & Brent Laubaugh, Richard Best, Ned Egan, Charles McDaniel, Allan & Millie Karlin, Eileen Paquette, Kelley Burd-Huss, Larry Pethick, Art & Erin Barket, Dave Bassage, Carl & Connie Ervin, The Book Exchange, Rich & Bettina Dennis, Barbara Dennis, Judith Cronauer & Gerard Lechowick

Confluence Crew: Roger & Melinda Shrout, Dan Coe, Karen Everett, Glenn Child, Paula Browning, Sara Cottingham, William Kelleher, George Street, Bill Shick, Chris Felton, James Boyce, Bill & Anne Mae Thorne, Marcia Hamm in loving memory of TT, Mary Rae & Steve Benson, Erin Hartman, Tess Meinert, Charles & Lee Mullett, Bill Buda, Bruce & Kathy Jenkins, Katharine Avary, Sheila Vukovich, Thomas Batchelor, Dave & Marilee Hall, Jeffrey Berry, Creighton Benham, Mary Beth Romonyak, Steve Ingalls & Anne Kmieck

Five Forks Friends: Cara Damm, Dallas & Jana Wolfe, Shannon Phares, Michael Blackburn, Rence & Barbara Callahan, Jane & Steve Andraka, Donald Bennett, Nico Dunbar, Charlie Yuill, Amanda Butler, Francis & Barb Slider, Rexell Phares, Brian Hurley, Taryn & Evan Moser, Michael McCarty, Terry & Stephanie Dunn, Tom Nutter, Donald Shelters, Bryan Moll, Paula Dinnerstein, Diane & Ed Radar, Meredith Kiger, Philip & Linda Kowalski, Julio Scheufele, Patricia Kelly, David Sibley

Good ‘Ole Friends: Elizabeth Singley, Michael Marlier, Patricia Greaser, Deonte Lee, Peggy Pings, Ellesa High, John Leatham, Rod Cavanaugh, Ned & Diane Sawyers, Donald Case, Marion & Penny Kostka, Janet & Dan Lenox, Paul Lauck, Alicia Pingley, Jonathan Myers, Kati Baker, James Robert Powell, Jane Reilly in honor of Richard Best, Andrew Gunnoe, Marion Kee, Richard & Deborah Koonse, Emily Calrson, Nori Onishi, David Hall, Scott Bricker, Barry Welling, Jason Smith, Jesse Groves, Sandra Frank, Sarah Friend, Theo, Colette, Sera & Nico Zegre, Kari Harsh, Dylan Jones, Lynette & Troy Shahan, Janet Ady, James Patterson, Alexandra Coffman, Bonnie Cupp, Toni Hartley, Bobbie Sue Burnside, Colleen Caldwell, Michael Dagen, Peter Armbruster, Brad Field & Family, Kevin Hughes, Rima Forrest, Wickliffe & Laura Walker, Frank Williams, Paul & Barbara Bauer, Thomas & Marsha Dulz, Jorge & Gale Flores, Mike & Suzanne Peddicord

Swim Guide Donors: Lake Lynn Generation, Adam Webster, Theo, Colette, Sera, & Nico Zegre

Whitewater Access Donors: Thomas Hungar, Keel-Haulers Canoe Club, Bradley Nichols, Ryan Radtka, Evan Mirapaul, Shaina Waddell, Nancy Abrams, William Connelly, Jeff Macklin, Peter Bernstein, William Durr, Ned Hughes, Scott Patton, Michael Strager, Christopher Niemeyer, John Kobak, Robert Moore, Three Rivers Paddling Club, Nina Assimakopoulos, Pamela Poljak, Mark Eakin, Fred Wright, Andrea Funyak, Todd Fedak, Coe Electric Inc (Dan Coe), Caitlin Sullivan, Lisa Thrush, Adam Webster, Stratford Douglas, Tyler Rosini, Keith Heasley, David Sibley, Diane Henderson, Donald Martin, Barbara Brown, Roger Harrison, Chris Kirkman, John Frankosky, David Saville, Nori Onishi, Sabine Iben, Ann Pancake, Carol Gelman, Richard Warner, Mary Spikowski, Kristin Braun, Alan Andrews, Michael Bailey, Peter Daly, Doren Burrell, Patrick Millham, Josh Kaufman, Cara Damm, Peggy McDevit, Peter Ravikovitch, Briggs Pletcher, JTech Computer Services, Christina Kossis, Keith Strausbaugh, Sofya Korabelnikova, Michael Cole, Theodore Scott, Bruce Best, Robert Pfannenstiel, Barry Adams, Richard Hopley, David Barnett, William Geary, Adam Johnson, Jennifer Damon, David Danner, Larry Krall, Jim Murtha, Stephen Patton, Rena Bouchal, Peter Armbruster, Danielle Rhodes, Vicky Shears, Kenneth Durr, Michael Rzesutock, Christine Lentz, Lisa Thrush, James Roeger, Wilson & Associates, Paul Potochniak, Chris Glazner, Robert Glenn, Matthew McMillian, John Jeffries, John Rooke, Katie Omeara, Clay Street Studio, David Kuklinski, Andrew Stewart, Melissa Shafer, Jim Snyder, Bob Heckler, Thomas Darby, Marcy Fleeharty, Paul Cline, Chris Greene, Eric Morris, Karen Krause, Kathryn McArthur, Erik Schomburg, Ian Bonnett, Sharon Schierling, May Lynn Khalife

FOC Campground Water Project Donors: The Oakland Foundation, Athey Lutz, John Lutz, Todd Ensign, Steven Mars, James Nardozzi, Everett Mulkeen, Mary Miller, Nicholas Borror, David Millrod, Carol Nix, Molly Superfesky

CARES ACT EXTENDED INTO 2021! The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act will let taxpayers deduct up to $300 ($600 for couples) in charitable donations from their taxable income. Taxpayers will be able to claim the deductions on their tax forms next year.


Musings and Gratitude

by Beth Warnick

2021 Cheat Canyon Downriver Race - photo by Jeff Macklin

Normally, the post Cheat River Festival newsletter article is easy to write, full of photos and fresh memories, a huge list of thank you’s for our leaders and hundreds of volunteers, and endless gratitude for everyone who attended and how their contributions are so important. Now, with one virtual and one month-long hybrid Cheat Fest under our belts, and many lessons learned and new insights into what makes the fest a ‘successful’ event - reflecting has become...complicated. For 25 years, FOC hosted an in person fest. Then we didn’t. Twice. And we looked at the numbers. And we adjusted our budget. And then we started to wax philosophical: “What is Cheat Fest?” “Why is Cheat Fest?” Well, we’ve been thinking about that.

1995 - the very first Cheat River Festival cohosted by West Virginia Rivers Coalition

First - the facts:

  • Cheat Fest is FOC’s largest fundraising and outreach event per year.
  • The profits from Cheat Fest are unrestricted funds (non-profit gold).
  • It is held the first weekend of May.
  • For 22 years, it was held on Saturday. Since 2017, it has expanded to Friday and Saturday.
  • Since 1995, it has rained on 50% of those dates. Since 2007, it has rained on 72% of those dates.
  • The average profit from Cheat Fest is around $43K.
  • The average difference in profit from a sunny Cheat Fest and a rainy Cheat Fest is between $20K and $30K.

So each fall, as FOC is creating its yearly budget for the following spring’s fest, we are essentially placing a $25K bet on a single weekend’s forecast with one crappy batting average.

Cheat Festers have come to expect a little rain. One year though, it did get a little interesting...

The unforgettable 2017 Cheat River Festival taught us the recipe for mud:

First off, some rain Friday evening..

Then add a bunch of dancing feet....

Sprinkle on a sense of humor and what do you get???

A whole lot of fun if you're down for it! Come on, y'all - it's just MUD!

Photos by the amazing Wolpertinger.

Rain during Cheat Fest isn’t necessarily a bad thing! The Cheat Canyon Downriver Race is a huge draw for the paddling crowd, and rain means good water levels (sometimes too good, and we have to switch the race to the Narrows). And FOC’s ‘ride or die’ Cheat Festers are true to the bone despite the forecast, but rain can deter some casual festival-goers from attending.

To make the fest more accessible for supporters who can’t attend - we’re going to continue some of the aspects of ‘virtual’ Cheat Fest that worked well. The silent auction will remain online (no more running back and forth from the stage to check your bids!), and we’ll have some items for donation-based raffle at the fest. Also, we’ll have an online merch store and one at the fest, each with exclusive items.

2019 Cheat River Festival - photo by Heather Kessler

Parts of the fest may look a little different, too. To help expand our revenue, we’ll be selling beer, so that’ll be a new area with restricted access.

Cheat Fest is deep in the heart and soul of FOC. And we’re expecting one hell of a party next year. So mark your calendars now for the 28th Annual Cheat River Festival - May 6 & 7, 2022!

It’s no exaggeration when I say ‘we can’t wait to see you there!’

2019 Cheat River Festival - photo by Gabe DeWitt

FOC would like to thank everyone who made the 2021 Cheat Fest Month a success!

The Cheat Canyon Downriver Race had 74 racers - including the youngest racer ever, Dominic Morrell, age 11! Congrats to all the winners: 1st female Ashley Nee (1:07:59); 1st male and B class Ethan Frangenberg (59:56); A class Steven McKone (1:03:07); C class Jason Beakes (1:04:17); D class Alden Henrie (1:11:51); k2 class Seth and Ocoee Chapelle (1:08:28); raft class Mike Cole and Will Whitt (1:33:49); Junior class Owen Smith (1:09:56).

Huge thanks to our race coordinator, Heather Rau, who did an unbelievable job, and all her volunteers: Don Parks, Timing; Alison Conroy, Steph Kinney, Lisa Shark, Laura Delany, Gaby Bush, Julie Black, Barry Adams, Kelley Burd-Huss, Rich Dennis, Miranda Peddicord, Max Bauer and Team Boosch, Justin Wolfe, Dan Luzier, and a big thanks to Jeff Macklin for taking photos. You can view the race results and peruse Jeff Macklin's race album at https://cheatfest.org/2021-cheat-river-massacre-ence/

Cheat Canyon Downriver Race participants, and the best paddle placement ever for #97. Photo by Jeff Macklin

We’d also like to thank Lisa Maraffa for coordinating the online silent auction - it was our best ever - generating over $6K! Thanks to everyone who donated items - and all the bidders - especially Todd Fedak who Amanda would like to remind to come pick up Olof.

Thanks to Adam Payne of Music to Your Ears Productions, who coordinated the streaming music, and all of the musicians who donated their talents: Meadow Run, Aristotle Jones, Stewed Mulligan, and The Hillbilly Gypsies.

Thanks to all the organizations and artists who made the Kid’s Art Tent event such a big success: PCPaRC, Preston Trail Towns, Eddie Maier (Eddie Spaghetti Art), Taila Wright-Maier, Zealon Maier, Zuri Maier, Jamie Lester, Patty Colebank, Sonda Cheesebrough, Rachael Pollard, Eli Pollard, Liz Urse, Ben Kolb, Lisa Giuliani (Lock House Studio), and Tim Hibbs

Kid's Art Tent Event

Of course, huge thanks to the fabulous John Victor for designing the 2021 official Cheat Fest artwork! And to our Art Market coordinator, Lydia Darrow, for keeping our juried artists connected and represented through another virtual fest.

Big thanks to everyone who hosted or led an event during Cheat Fest month: Doug Manning for leading the guided nature walk through the Cheat Canyon, High Ground Brewing and their release of the Cheat River Boofstroke Beer, Gritstone Climbing Gym and Cheat Canyon Climbers Coalition for including FOC in their community celebration day and the ‘Vertical Challenge” event (the Gym to Crag event was cancelled due to rainy weather, unfortunately).

And big thanks to Patrick McCann of Blackwater Outdoor Adventures, for his patience running the shuttle when our Cheat River Interpretive Float lasted a little longer than we anticipated (sorry Patrick - we love you!).

Thanks to the volunteers who helped us attempt a surf contest - Johnny Utah, Laken Walker, Dani Martin, and Brian Hazlett (who should either always, or never, be given a bullhorn).

Lastly, but certainly not least, the 2021 Cheat River Festival Sponsors: Don & Susan Sauter, Black Bear Burritos, High Ground Brewing, and Gritstone Climbing. Your generous support made all the difference this year - and we’re so grateful to you.


Looks to Next Steps

by Christine David, Josh Corbin, and Kelley Burd-Huss

Kids Art Tent Murals Installed at the Tunnelton Pumphouse

At Preston Trail Towns (PTT), we do not only seek to build communities, but seek to build relationships with people within the communities. Over the past few months, we have been hard at work with our Project Partners to develop exciting programs, improve facilities, and source resources to make Tunnelton, Rowlesburg, Albright, and Kingwood even better places to go outside and play.

As our first partner projects reach completion, we are continuing our relationships with our partners to set our sights toward next steps for each of these organizations. For example, our collaboration with the Rowlesburg Park Commission transformed an existing bathroom to a family restroom with more accessible facilities, complete with upgraded plumbing for the bathrooms and concession stands. The relationship with Rowlesburg Park Commission then developed into another grant proposal led by Phil Wotring and Trail Town Intern Josh Corbin. Just recently, with collaboration from PTT, the Rowlesburg Park Commission was awarded $3,000 in grant funding from Try This WV based around community wellness to revitalize the existing playground structures, enhance the local landmark Adirondack Chair, and purchase new sports equipment to make the park a more inviting hub for outdoor recreation.

Additionally, PTT has been working alongside Kingwood McGrew House to develop a long-desired brochure that maps and describes the rare and champion trees found in the McGrew Arbor. Under the leadership of intern Christine David, PTT and McGrew House produced an attractive and informative map that made the McGrew House’s vision a reality. As part of our continuing relationship, PTT helped the McGrew Society apply for Fulcrum Project Funding to continue enhancing the Arbor’s interpretation, so residents and visitors of all ages can enjoy the trees and the stories they tell.

Clockwise from top left: Cheat Fest Kids Art Tent event attendees line up to paint local artist-designed murals to be installed in Tunnelton, PTT Partner, SUP Cheat, at the Rowlesburg Meet the Cheat event, participants enjoy the s’mores party in Albright,

Finally, we are celebrating our other Partner program projects. These include: The launch of SUP Cheat, a new cooperative business venture that combines the practice of yoga with stand-up paddleboarding; New Kiosks connecting the Allegheny Trail with the towns of Rowlesburg and Albright; The upcoming grand opening of the Tunnelton Trailhead Park, including murals co-created by a team of artists led by Eddie Spaghetti Art and local youth; and Placemaking for the Cheat Riverfront designed and developed alongside the Rowlesburg Volunteer Fire Department.

As we are increasingly able to gather together with the waning presence of the pandemic, Preston Trail Towns is also hosting multiple events to promote community togetherness and engagement such as s'mores parties (an opportunity for families to come out and get free s'mores and socialize) and bracelet making workshops. These events, which are quickly deployed and easy to set up and tear down, are increasing in popularity and attendance, and are some of the best sources we currently have for community feedback, connections, and asset mapping.

Beyond connecting community members with one another and the special spaces that make Preston County great, PTT interns including Seth Collins are working hard to gather useful data that can be used to describe the exciting changes we are seeing in outdoor recreation, and to ensure the sustainability of these efforts. Through qualitative impressions, community feedback, and more formal surveys, we have an increasingly detailed picture of what residents and communities want to see, and how we can improve livability, and in turn, make our communities great places to play. Dream Mountain's Bluegrass Festival was a large success in gathering of visitor information and understanding the ways in which tourists and locals alike appreciate Preston County. As with many of our data collection efforts, we received valuable information through surveys PTT's "More Board", and genuine connections with attendees.

Double Rainbow over Dream Mountain's Bluegrass Festival

We are looking for people with great ideas and the drive to get things done! This organization flourishes on the individuals who take part in making dreams come true. Through staff within the organization, volunteers, and the community, everyone is a contributing factor when it comes to Preston Trail Towns.

We are currently looking for more Project Partners! For more information about the Partner Program, go to http://bit.ly/pttpartnerprogram, or contact Kelley Burd-Huss at 304-276-9956 or kelley@cheat.org.


by Madison Ball

While the last year has been full of ups and downs, things never truly slowed down for FOC staff, largely in part to our wonderful donors who helped us stay afloat. Over the course of the last year, amidst the pandemic, the Cheat River Restoration Program was able to achieve multiple long term goals, as well as grow our program to include new restoration activities.

Among these successes were the construction of two acid mine drainage (AMD) treatment sites, both reducing severe acid, aluminum, and iron loads to their receiving streams: Beaver Creek and Muddy Creek. Both of these streams hold trout in certain reaches, which are particularly sensitive to high aluminum and iron concentrations. A third project is underway in Beaver Creek, and will be completed in the next month, adding to FOC’s project roster and completing work in the Beaver Creek watershed: a goal on FOC’s ‘Must Do’ List for decades.

FOC staff conducted a preliminary macroinvertebrate sampling effort in the mainstem of Beaver Creek downstream of our project sites, and the results are promising: multiple species of stoneflies, mayflies, and caddisflies were detected, which are typically very sensitive to pollution. From this preliminary survey, at least 12 distinct species were observed.

Benthic macroinvertebrates found in Beaver Creek of the Big Sandy Creek watershed.

The success of our efforts to remediate AMD has allowed FOC to focus on further restoration of a newly reborn Cheat River. Issues that AMD masked for decades are now coming to light, including: bacterial pollution from failing combined sewer overflows, the Albright Dam impeding natural flows and fish migration, and erosion issues on stream and river banks in our mainstem and headwaters, hampering our recently eDNA confirmed hellbenders in the Cheat.

Over the course of the last year, FOC has collected and analyzed over 100 bacterial samples at popular recreation sites in the Cheat, and made the results known through The Swim Guide so the public can know when harmful E.Coli spikes may be occurring.

We also secured over $350,000 towards the Albright Power Dam Removal Project, of which the first critical stage will be to investigate all feasible options and alternatives for removal. Behemoth projects such as this can tend to move slowly, but every move is critical to the project’s success. FOC will be securing a team to lead preliminary survey, investigation, and design work this year.

New to FOC, we also completed our first riparian reforestation project on the Cheat mainstem upstream of Rowlesburg, by revegetating a 50 foot buffer from the water’s edge. The site has had extreme erosion due to lack of riparian trees and shrubs to hold the soil in place, a concern for water quality especially as Eastern Hellbender were detected at this location.

Rowlesburg Riparian Reforestation - Photo by Johnny Utah

Among all of this, FOC has also continued new recruitment to our volunteer water quality monitoring program (CAPABLE), has responded to water quality threats in our watershed, and written comments and given public statements on projects that do not utilize best management practices when it comes to safeguarding our rivers and streams.

None of this could have been done without the support of our base, which allowed us to seek new funding opportunities and grow both inward and outward, and for that we say thank you! We look forward to providing more updates on our suite of restoration projects as they continue this year and onwards.


by Amanda Pitzer

I think I have a hybrid case of Covid/new mom isolation whiplash. Over a year of hunkering down and now I’m participating in a lot of meetings and events. Much of this work is on top of FOC’s project and planned program activities which can be hard to manage. Sprinkle in some public appearances and misleading news coverage and this new mom is ready to go back to stretchy pants, ice cream, and E-books (reminder when re-reading this to cancel Audible!).

Here is a run down of what is keeping me up at night:

This Guy

Emmitt Skip

Whitewater Preserve - - About a month ago, the WVDEP held a Public Hearing for the developer’s requested NPDES permit for the approximate 800 acre (phase I) Whitewater Preserve Development located along Big Sandy Creek and Laurel Run. A big thanks to everyone who submitted comments in advance and to those who participated in the hearing. FOC was able to voice our concerns on the work done to date and future developments. As a result of the hearing, FOC was able to connect with a few of the new landowners and we are looking forward to supporting their interest in conservation of this very special place.

At this time, WVDEP has not issued the final permit or taken any further action.

AML Reauthorization - - For those regular readers of the FOC newsletter, you’ve heard a lot about the reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fee over the last two years because this critical program is quickly approaching the end of its authorization period (9/30/2021)!

Despite consistent lobbying efforts by the PA AML campaign and other interest groups, including the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs and Interstate Mining Compact Commission, the forthcoming compromise is yet unclear. Since the introduction of the massive bipartisan Infrastructure bill, everyone has been working to figure out how to retain the solvency of the AML program without turning away the big bucks included in that bill (currently $11.298B for AML). I am reluctant to say too much since the situation is changing daily; the bill is on track for markup later this week in Senator Manchin’s Energy and Natural Resource Committee. FOC and our allies with the PA AML campaign are sticking to our position that the fee should not be lowered and that the program should be reauthorized for 15 years.

**Update 7/26/21** The reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land program is currently one component of the giant $1.2T infrastructure plan being sought by President Biden. This plan needs to clear a procedural vote requiring bipartisan support to begin formal debate but as of right now there is still no full text available for the entire bill. Friday’s vote failed. There might be another attempt today. It has been extra challenging to figure out who is going to support the full package and who might be willing to offer amendments.

There is text and a $11.298B budget for the AML portion of the Energy Infrastructure bill currently in the hands of Senator Manchin’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In the opinion of FOC and many of our partners in AMD, the current version is not adequate: It lowers the AML fee by 20%, gives too short of a timeframe for the giant spending, doesn’t allow spending on Priority 3 (P3) sites - most of which are the acid mine drainage problem areas, and doesn’t allow states to put funds in their set-aside accounts - the accounts that pay for the ongoing costs of acid mine drainage treatment.

So, despite the big funding number, this current language is inadequate for FOC and anyone who cares about AMD cleanup. FOC and our partners across the country are advocating for what we are calling the “AMD amendment” to allow work on P3 sites and funds to flow into set aside accounts. Senator Manchin wants bipartisan support for amendments, which I don’t doubt the AML states could muster for the “AMD amendment”. However, will these same supporters even vote for the big bill (and does that matter?)?

Unfortunately, there are a lot more changes that we would like to see to this AML component of the infrastructure bill but in order for the bill to keep moving, there may not be enough bipartisan energy and focus to make more substantial changes.

Watch FOC’s social media and email updates for the latest on this very important issue.

THE FUTURE - - A baby sure puts time into a different perspective; as my friend Wendy described, “the days take forever but the weeks fly by,” and I have to agree.

FOC time is different too. Some of our projects have already spanned decades (Cheat River Rail-Trail) while others are in their spunky youthful years (Albright dam removal).

One exciting new development, that now seems like a no-brainer, is the FOC campground off Beech Run Road. We retained management of the campground in the spring of 2020, and recently brought potable water to the property. We were a little nervous about this venture, but over the last 3 months FOC has collected over $1500 in camping fees, and people are really enjoying the place. Now we are scheming our next steps...would you want to stay at a tricked-out riverside yurt?!?

FOC Associate Director, Owen Mulkeen, FOC Campground Manager, Jim Meckley, and a host of stellar volunteers install water lines at the campground

Continued growth and diversification of our revenue will help FOC grow our organizational capacity - we really, really need one more staff member to manage the festival, support our ongoing projects including water monitoring and tree plantings, and design and build out NEW programs to meet growing needs for educational offerings and outdoor activities. So what will this “diversification” look like in the future? First, get ready for a NEW, cutting-edge Friends of the Cheat website before the year is over. And next, start making your camping plans now as FOC will offer craft beer sales in a special 2022 Cheat Fest biergarten!

Finally, you can look forward to FOC’s first official, in-person State of the Watershed event coming this October. We can’t wait to see you and humbly brag on everything we’ve been up to since March 2020!


7/28/21 - Horseshoe Run Snorkel Workshops - Horseshoe Recreation and Campground Area. FOC staff will be hosting free snorkel workshops in Horseshoe Run outside of St. George, WV. Sessions will begin at 2:00, 4:00, and 6:00 pm and will last approximately one hour. All ages welcome, FOC masks and snorkels available for use. Contact madison@cheat.org for more details or questions.

7/30/21 - Rowlesburg Park S’mores Party - 6:00pm. Hosted by Preston Trail Towns - Family friendly and free!

7/31/21 - 8/1/21 - Allegheny Trail Work in Cheat Canyon (2nd Annual) - Albright, WV. Join West Virginia Scenic Trails Association (WVSTA) and FOC for a weekend of trail work and camping headquartered at Friends of the Cheat Primitive Campground. To RSVP or for more information, contact Section 1 Coordinator Mitch Klein at mitchellleeklein@gmail.com

8/6/21 - Albright Park S’mores Party - 6:00pm. Hosted by Preston Trail Towns - Family friendly and free!

8/21/21 - Cheat Narrows Snorkel Workshop - Fascination Alley on the Cheat River along Rte. 72. FOC staff will be hosting a free snorkel workshop at the “The Alley” on the Narrows of the Cheat River, flows and weather permitting, from 1:00 - 4:00, with participants being able to come and go as they please. All ages welcome, FOC masks and snorkels available for use. Location and parking here: 39.3971, -79.68734. Contact madison@cheat.org for more details or questions.