Saturday, August 14, 2010

Roaring Creek Project-2009

The date is July 10, 1861.Smoke drifts across the Roaring Creek Flats of western Virginia, it hangs like fog in the valley below.  On June 16, Confederate troops; numbering 1300, began building fortifications on the western slope of Rich Mountain which would become Camp Garnett. The troops surely utilized the abundant resources offered by Roaring Creek and its tributaries during their encampment. On this night, a comet passes overhead and is taken; by the soldiers, as an ominous sign. They were right: More than eighty will die - tomorrow.

One hundred and forty-eight years later, we can only speculate about the quality of the fishery present in the Roaring Creek Watershed at that time. We know two things: the fishery does not have the quality of 1861, and it can be improved upon now. Roaring Creek has fought its own battles over the years, it is a survivor. There is hope for recovery. Numerous tributaries of Roaring Creek have populations of brook trout which are isolated, due to water quality issues. Two streams are severely impacted by acid-mine drainage, effectively eliminating downstream life.

On July 25, 2009; representatives from the National Mine Land Reclamation Center, DEP and members of the Mountaineer Chapter of Trout Unlimited converged upon the Roaring Creek Watershed. The goal for the day was collecting low water flow data to compare with data collected from the April 18th monitoring workday. Selected sites were electro-fished to determine if fish were actually present in the watershed. Data collected includes: pH, dissolved oxygen content, conductivity, temperature and presence of metals. A flow-meter is used to determine the volume of water flowing at each site. The information from this data will be used to design a passive treatment system to improve the quality of the watershed.

Seven sites were electro-fished; brook trout were collected at 4 locations. One site proved to be too deep and wide for effective sampling, one unidentified, fleeing fish was seen at this location. Fish collected at 3 sites included a healthy mixture of black-nosed dace, mottled sculpin and brook trout. One location had brook trout only in its lower section and was possibly impacted by in-stream obstructions. The other two streams are known to have trout populations in the 1970s and are possible candidates for limestone sand treatment in their headwaters.

Late-afternoon storm clouds rolled in from the south as the four groups finished the day’s fish and data collection. The only attacks came from angry yellow jackets and “sewer bombs” in downtown Coalton. The day was a huge success; we have documented proof that the watershed of Roaring Creek is not dead. With the help of dedicated individuals, the watershed can recover and become productive once again.

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