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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New River Clean Water Alliance

For the last 8 months I have been meeting with a group  dubbed, the New River Clean Water Alliance (I will refer to it as the alliance).  The alliance is a diverse group of stakeholders with representatives present from the headwaters, in Boone, NC ( The National Committee for the New River), all the way to the Lower New River at Fayette Station (New River Gorge, National Park Service).  The group was started by Erin St. Johns of the National Parks Conservation Association.  She has played an integral role in bringing the group together and providing leadership, while continuing to build momentum on key issues in the New River Gorge Region.

What is the New River Clean Water Alliance doing?  Our short term goal is to create a "State of the Watershed Report for the Lower New River" and our long term goal is to remove the Lower New River from the EPA's 303(d) list of impaired waters.  The alliance has contracted Downstream Strategies to draft the State of the Watershed Report and they will document water quality issues, synthesize the data by subwatershed, facilitate a stakeholder process, and identify the priority subwatersheds and strategies for remediation for the lower New River watershed.

The New River TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) report divided the New River into 33 distinct watersheds and 720 subwatersheds (or reachsheds), and lists over 80 streams (totaling over 700 miles) with one or more of the following impairments: metals, acidity, fecal coliform, and biological. This analysis and stakeholder process will focus on the area below Bluestone Lake; approximately 15 separate subwatersheds will be examined, prioritized, and summarized.

The final state of the watershed report published by the New River Clean Water Alliance would turn these TMDL data (and other available data) on the New River and its tributaries into a document that gives the reader an understanding of current water quality conditions. The report would be a compelling document that would be distributed to communities and provide information to local, state, and national decision makers. Conceptually, the report would be 10‐20 pages and would include pictures and stories on the importance of the unique natural resource.

This process will enable the project team and stakeholders to identify criteria for prioritizing subwatersheds, identify the highest priorities,and focus efforts to secure the resources necessary to address the water quality issues.

Several watershed groups and government agencies are also involved, just to give you an idea of the size of the alliance, including: the Plateau Action Network, Piney Creek Watershed Association, Morris Creek Watershed Association, the Dunloup Creek Watershed Association, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, USDA NRCS, Mountain Resource Conservation and Development, New River Gorge National Park Service, Heather Lukacs (PhD Student, Stanford University), and the National Parks Conservation Association.