TU is working with the Dominion Foundation, the Forest Service, state agencies, and other partners to restore the headwaters of the Potomac River.
The TU restoration project will focus initially on the headwater areas of the South Branch of the Potomac River. The project will grow over time, but activities and projects are occurring in Hardy, Pendleton, and Grant Counties, West Virginia.
A history of flooding in the watershed destabilized the banks of the higher elevation headwater streams. Open cattle grazing practices also wore down stream banks. The combination of flooding and grazing leads to unstable stream banks that erode into the stream and compromise water quality and fish habitat.
When stream banks erode, sediment fills the stream channel, and the shallow waters prevent brook trout and other species from migrating and finding deeper pools in which to live. Shallow waters also warm more quickly and are less hospitable to coldwater fish species. Importantly, degradation of stream banks and streamside areas also intensifies the effects of floods on downstream communities. Instead of absorbing increased flows and spreading them across a floodplain, altered rivers channel the energy of floods downstream, often with devastating consequences to people and communities.
The first stage of the project has already begun on a large tract of National Forest land in the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac. Volunteers from Dominion and the TU West Virginia Council are constructing three miles of fencing to prevent cattle from accessing the stream and degrading the banks. Alternative water sources (stock tanks) are provided for the cattle.
Replanting the areas will naturally stabilize the banks and recover the streamside area. Additional in-stream work will re-establish the channel and force sediment through the stream and out of the system.
For more information, please contact Gary Berti, TU’s Project Manager for the Potomac Headwater Home Rivers Initiative, at (304) 704-2731.