Clean, Clear Water

A Community Effort of Friends... to Make one Thing Perfectly Clear—Water

Buckhannon River with rocks at the banks in spring
Hall Road Public Stream Access to Buckhannon River sign unveiling
Buckhannon River public information sign

Protecting and promoting the Buckhannon River Watershed, since 2001

Early History

The Buckhannon River Watershed Association is an outgrowth of a meeting called by WV Dept. of Environmental Protection’s Stream Restoration Group, the WV Conservation Agency, and WV Wesleyan College’s GREEN Club. The purpose of the meeting was for coordinating rejuvenation and quality-maintenance of the Buckhannon River watershed and inviting the public to become involved therein. At this January 2001 meeting, a sign-up sheet for an “interest meeting” was available. The result was an interest meeting held at The First United Methodist Church in Buckhannon on 12 February 2001 at which an organizing committee was elected by those present. By March 27, 2001, at the end of the second organizational meeting a name had been chosen for the organization, a Board of Directors had been elected, bylaws adopted, and membership dues agreed upon. This first Board of Directors consisted of Dr. Jeff Simmons, Chair; Mr. Burl Smith Vice-Chair; Mr. Jim Mitchell, Treasurer; and Dr. G. Paul Richter, Secretary; Don Gasper, Jeff Kelley, Tom Landis, and Lisa McLeod.

At that March 2001 meeting, a list of concerns dealing with the Buckhannon River, its tributaries, and the land that they drain was compiled from those voiced and prioritized by the audience. Representatives of state agencies, such as WV Soil Conservation Agency and The Department of Natural Resources, were present to help the audience focus on important problems and rank them.

By the end of the BRWA board meeting in early April 2001, decisions for incorporation, applying for non-profit status, preparing a brochure, and applying for a grant had been activated.

At the first public meeting of the official Buckhannon Watershed Association (May, 2001) Don Phares, Assistant Chief of Fisheries, WV D.N.R., made a slide presentation on trout in the Buckhannon River.

By August, 2001 a Stream Partners grant for $3652 had been received. Using that grant money, BRWA had accomplished a number of things by September 2002. This included the following: 1000 copies of a glossy color brochure for public distribution were printed; a large portable, free-standing, educational display was prepared by a commercial printing company; a large banner commercially made; and money set aside for purchasing trees for landscaping the River Walk, for employing an intern, and for publishing perhaps two editions of a newsletter.

In August, BRWA had also officially registered its moral support of WV Soil Conservation Agency’s “Incremental 319 Watersheds Project.” Although no active work or BRWA money were involved, it allowed the association to register its interest in official undertakings by state and federal agencies involved with protection of watersheds.

By the fall of 2001, BRWA had 40 to 45 individual members and six organizational members. In addition, the board had approved a one-year strategic plan, which included some of the projects listed above and water-quality monitoring.

At the second public meeting that BRWA hosted in January 2002, Jim Kochenderfer of the U.S.F.’s Northeast Experiment Station spoke on sedimentation and flooding. His conclusion, based on Fernow Experimental Forest data, was that timbering, per se, does not cause longer-term flooding. The data show, however, led some in the audience to question the conclusion as far as shorter-term (four years) flooding is concerned.

The second annual membership meeting featured Jeremy Muller of West Virginia Rivers Coalition speaking on the state’s new antidegradation rule, a controversial topic of much interest. Also at this membership meeting, members elected new board members to replace the three whose terms had expired and the one who had resigned.

Another public meeting was held in July of 2002. The program featured a panel discussion concerning tree-removal from the City of Buckhannon’s water impoundment of the Buckhannon River. The panelists were Burl Smith, City Engineer; Michael Hawranick, WV Dept. of Health; Kevin Yokum, WV Dept. of Nat. Resources; Jim Marsh, Husky Musky Club. The issue is somewhat controversial because trees and tree stumps in the water serve as protection and a source of food-production for fish, yet they permit silt build-up in various locations and are potential boating hazards.

Miscellaneous activities in 2002 have included water-sampling (and calling for volunteers to help) and exhibiting the watershed map and distributing BRWA brochures at the Maple Syrup Festival (Pickens) and the Strawberry Festival (Buckhannon). A few BRWA members were trained by WV D.E.P.’s Save Our Streams for doing streamside bioassessments.

Areas we cover

Geographical Extent - Map

Buckhannon River watershed map in context
buckhannon river watershed map

The Buckhannon River arises in Randolph County in wooded terrain at approximately 3500 feet (L Fork) and at approximately 3200 feet (R Fork), flows through and drains a significant portion of Upshur County, and empties into the Tygart Valley R. at Tygart Junction, Barbour Co, at an elevation of 1334 feet. Some tributaries of the river drain very small portions of Lewis and Harrison counties. The complete watershed includes Upper Buckhannon, French Creek, Fink Run, Peck’s Run, Sand Run, and Lower Buckhannon subsheds: ca. 309 sq. mi. in area and 506 stream miles serving approximately 21 thousand people. The drained area includes steeply wooded slopes; more gently rolling terrain that has woods, meadows, and pastures with grazing cattle and horses; and mined areas, both active and inactive surface and deep mines.


Awards and Notable Activities Through the Years (2001-2012)

  • Watershed Celebration Day 2012 – Outreach and Education (co-winner with Friends of Deckers Creek, Friends of the Lower Greenbrier, Greenbrier Watershed Assoc., Morris Creek Watershed Assoc., and Piney Creek Watershed Assoc.)
  • Watershed Celebration Day 2011 – Outreach and Education (co-winner with Coal R. Group)
  • Watershed Celebration Day 2010 – Monitoring (co-winner with Friends of Deckers Creek)
  • Watershed Celebration Day 2009 – Outreach & Education (co-winner with Plateau Action Network & Sleepy Creek Watershed Association)
  • Watershed Celebration Day 2008 – Watershed Association of the Year ($5000 comes with this award)
  • Watershed Celebration Day 2007 – Strong partnerships (with agencies and other organizations) winner
  • Watershed Celebration Day 2006 – Polluted Coal Mine Drainage Award winner
  • Watershed Celebration Day 2004 – Non-Point Award winner
  • Watershed Celebration Day 2003 – Water Quality winner
  • Watershed Celebration Day 2002 – Non-Point Award winner; nominee for Water Quality, for Flood Mitigation, and for Outreach & Education
  • Watershed Celebration Day 2001 – New Watershed of the Year runner-up
  • Strawberry Festival Fred Brooks Garden Club Flower Show – Special Exhibits category: first place
  • Early participant and catalyst for the WV Watershed Framework Group’s Buckhannon Project Team, hosting all of the meetings. That team is a group of volunteers, local representatives, and state & federal agencies working toward implementing TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads of Al, Fe, Mn, & and acid {H+ ion}) in three sub-watersheds (Upper Buck., Fink Run, and Peck’s Run) of the Buckhannon River. The streams and tributaries having high amounts of one or more of those inorganic materials are those into which mine drainage seeps or runs. Some sites occasionally were measured for pH, conductivity, sulfate, Ca, Mg, Total Suspended Solids (TSS), flow, as well as for coliform bacteria.
  • Conducted an intensive coliform bacteria sampling on seven streams: We sampled seven streams five times during the month of April, which is necessary according to state regulations. All seven streams violated the state’s water quality criteria and a report has been sent to WV DEP detailing our results and requesting those stream be listed as impaired be put on WV’s 303(d) list of impaired streams.
  • Assisted WV DNR in identifying liming sites to treat acid rain deposition in the Upper Buckhannon River watershed.
  • Completed three Watershed Based Plans in cooperation with WV Watershed Framework Group’s Buckhannon Project Team for Fink Run, Pecks Run, and the Upper Buckhannon watersheds so that we can become eligible for EPA’s section 319 (Non-Point Source) funds.
  • Hosted a number of public presentations, including such topics as: alternative wastewater systems, fisheries in the Buckhannon R. tree-removal in the Buckhannon R., sedimentation and flooding, finding financial help for farmers & landowners for improving and protecting streams, liming of streams to restore fish habitat, and concerns of those living near the headwaters (held in Helvetia).
  • Hosted a roundtable forum dealing with coliform bacteria in the watershed. Invitees were federal, state, county, and city officials/agencies plus interested private associations (e.g. – Trout Unltd., Husky Musky Club, local WV Cattlemen’s Assoc., local WV Beef Producers Assoc., Friends Of the Little Kanawha)
  • Written and distributed three newsletters, including such topics as: non-point sources of pollution (e.g., ag. run-off, mine seeps, general run-off), riparian buffer zones, bacterial contamination, and acid mine drainage
  • Assisted Dept. of Enviro. Protection’s Stream Restoration Group of the Abandoned Mine Lands office with identifying and marking w/ stakes the sites for water quality “sweeps”, then assisting it with the samplings – ~130 sites, each site sampled at 3 times. In regard to the third sweep, BRWA helped the third sweep of the Upper Buckhannon Watershed be authorized by writing a letter (February 2004) to Mr. Charlie Miller (Acting Asst. Director, Office of AML & R) requesting the third sweep as had been promised in 2001 but had not been forthcoming.
  • Worked with Basin Coordinator to identify non-point sources and potential projects
  • In collaboration with The Highlands Institute at WV Wesleyan College (now defunct) a bacteria source tracking technique was developed. A student was able to identify the source of bacteria in two streams.
  • Applied for and received an OSM watershed summer intern for the summer of 2004. The intern worked with BRWA board members to identify sources of AMD within the watershed by collecting water samples, counting macroinvertebrates, and creating maps in GIS. The intern also helped the WV DNR identify sites for liming.
  • Promote Best Management Practices through the public meetings and distributing literature and information through occasional newspaper articles.
  • Some toured parts of the Upper Buckhannon watershed with Non-point Source Specialist Lou Schmidt. Included were the Alton project, whose AMD is now being treated by the state of WV, and nearby areas. The results included learning what the state has done at that project, what monitoring data have been collected, and looking for seeps and other problems. (late spring, 2004)
  • 24 trees planted above the Buckhannon R. bank in the N. Buckhannon Park.
Buckhannon River Watershed Association Watershed of the Year Road Sign
2008 Watershed Association of the Year check and road sign

You can get involved in improving water quality today!