Albright Dam & Hellbender E-DNA
New in 2020, FOC is planning a reconnaissance study for removal of the Albright Power Dam on the Cheat River. The Albright Power Dam was built to feed the adjacent Albright coal-fired Power Plant’s cooling towers. The Albright Power Plant closed in 2012, and it has been made clear there are no plans for reopening or converting the plant for other types of energy production.
The Cheat River is special in that only two dams or barriers exist on its entire 78.3 miles-- the Lake Lynn Dam at Cheat Lake, and the Albright Power Dam. Removal of the Albright Power Dam will reconnect 75 miles of the Cheat River mainstem. For context, a study published in 2000 found that fewer than 60 rivers in the contiguous United States have more than 100 km (62 miles) of free flowing unimpounded water (Doyle et al 2000).
One such species that stands to benefit is the Eastern Hellbender, which are found in the Cheat River mainstem, and are the largest salamander species in North America, reaching lengths of two feet. These gentle giants are in decline and need free flowing water unimpaired by sediment, and dams and impoundments are some of their largest threats. Removal of the Albright Power Dam will improve conditions for this species, and FOC recently wrapped up our first ever environmental-DNA monitoring effort to better understand Eastern Hellbender distribution across the watershed. During the sampling effort, river water is passed through a filter at the sample location, which is then tested for Eastern Hellbender DNA at a laboratory. Results from the testing will allow FOC to “map” positive DNA results, and collect subsequent samples in gap areas in 2021.
Garrett Richardson folds a sample filter
Freefolk Brewery out of Fayetteville, WV crafted a limited edition special concoction in the name of the Eastern Hellbender, and a portion of the funds from sale of ‘Allegheny Alligator’ have be donated to FOC in the name of Eastern Hellbender eDNA monitoring. The bottled beers feature beautifully drawn artwork by WV artist and Freefolk owner, Jamie Lester.
PARTNERSHIP HIGHLIGHT: DOWNSTREAM STRATEGIES
Photo caption: Downstream Strategies staff celebrate the installation of the solar array at their Morgantown office. From back to front, left to right: Evan Hansen, Kendra Hatcher, Marc Glass, Kasey Osborne, Patty Boros, Will Postelthwait, Aspen, Joey James, Jenny Newland, Henry, Sara Cottingham, and Heather Jewell. Not pictured: Meghan Betcher, Evan Fedorko, Ethan Flannigan, Tom Rebar, Josh Saville.
This year we would like to highlight a project partner that has been involved in a myriad of projects with FOC over the past and present. From watershed based planning to our latest project, the Preston County Master Trail Plan, Downstream has been a reliable and enthusiastic contractor to bring a high level of technical assistance to FOC’s important projects.
Downstream Strategies is an environmental and economic development consulting firm with offices in Morgantown, Davis, and Lewisburg. The company offers a diverse slate of programs and services that strengthen economies, sustain healthy environments, and build resilient communities.
In recent years, Downstream Strategies has been a key partner and service provider for several major FOC initiatives. Downstream Strategies’ grant writing assistance has helped FOC secure three major grants to date from the AML Pilot Program and ARC POWER Initiative, which has brought in millions of dollars for the economic transformation of the Cheat River watershed and Preston County.
In addition, the firm’s restoration and remediation program has been very involved with the Cheat River Rail-Trail, conducting environmental assessments for the trail as well as assisting in trailhead design procurement for the Preston Site.
And since 2019, Downstream Strategies’ trail planning staff joined forces with FOC to undertake the first planning efforts for the Mountaineer Trail Network, a planned network of mountain biking–focused trail systems that will span 15 counties in northern West Virginia.
Through the team’s 2019 POWER grant, Downstream Strategies completed the first comprehensive trail plan for Preston County and the Mountaineer Trail Network, which was released by FOC in July 2020. This plan pilots a custom planning methodology designed to help leaders, trail advocates, and Mountaineer Trail Network representatives in Preston County guide local trail development in a way that maximizes economic and community benefit. Committed to seizing this game-changing opportunity for our region, Downstream Strategies remains a key partner conducting ongoing education, outreach, and initial facilitation work for the Network.