Two Groups Partner to Protect New, Greenbrier Rivers
6 January 2013
BECKLEY -- The waters of the New and Greenbrier rivers converge at
the town of Hinton before rushing through the New River Gorge.
Likewise, two water quality organizations dedicated to the health
of these rivers are joining together to move their goals forward
into the new year.
The Confluence Campaign is an effort by the Friends of the Lower
Greenbrier River and the National Committee on the New River to
raise $18,000 for their organizing and outreach work in West
"Thousands of people use and enjoy the rivers and we want to
funnel their appreciation for the rivers into taking better care
of them," says Chris Chanlett, president of the Friends of the
Lower Greenbrier River.
The group performs water monitoring, educates local students about
the watershed, creates reading material and spearheads other
activities focused on conserving and protecting water resources in
the Greenbrier River watershed.
In 2011, they released a Greenbrier River State of the Watershed,
an educational document that details the watershed, its
impairments and some of the activities being undertaken to improve
Working with an artist, they are also creating a 3D model of the
watershed, which will be displayed at the Alderson Interpretive
Center. Chanlett says they also have a proposal on the table to
create a boat ramp access point where the Greenbrier meets the
The National Committee for the New River (NCNR) works to protect,
restore and advocate for a healthy New River, whose 8,970 miles of
tributaries drain a 6,920-square-mile basin. In West Virginia,
they have partnered with other local organizations on water
monitoring and education projects.
NCNR, the larger of the two organizations, challenged the
Greenbrier group to raise the money. They will keep one third of
it for their outreach work in West Virginia.
"The Greenbrier is a very significant portion of the New's total
watershed, so it makes complete sense for them, as an ambitious
organization, to keep reaching out to people in southern West
Virginia," Chanlett says.
Friends of the Lower Greenbrier River will use their portion for
staffing to support all their activities and programs. They
currently rely on a VISTA worker, an arrangement that can continue
if the campaign is a success.
Chanlett says the Greenbrier's most immediate problem is the
formation of large amounts of algae in the river during the summer
months because of phosphorus from sewage treatment plants.
"The algae forms in such large blooms that it gets in the way of
boating, fishing and swimming and it's generally unpleasant for
people using the river," he says.
In cooperation with its sister organization, the Greenbrier River
Watershed Association, the Friends is addressing the issue with
water authorities to try to upgrade the systems to release less
Another problem is E. coli, which comes from various sources,
including livestock and dysfunctional septic systems. The Muddy
Creek watershed is a point of focus for the Friends in this
respect. They have a project with the soil conservation district
for upgrading septic systems and cost sharing to exclude livestock
from grazing along the creeks.
Both Friends and NCNR began in protest of certain projects that
would have significantly impacted the rivers -- a hydroelectric
impoundment in the case of the New and a pressure-treated wood
plant in the case of the Greenbrier. They have grown into
organizations with a wider focus on watershed health.
Chanlett says he feels good about the direction the country has
moved since passing the Clean Water Act in 1972, but that
maintaining that positive change requires continued efforts at the
"Publicly, we've invested in rivers, and it shows. More people can
live along them and spend their days enjoying them," he says.
"But it takes local organizations like ours to sustain the energy
to take care of places, keep government bodies accountable, and
organize citizen activities along the rivers."