FODC Gets $55K EPA Grant

Director: Money will fund research of treatment plant

Morgantown Dominion Post
21 August 2012
By David Beard

On the heels of a setback to its Richard Mine acid drainage project, Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) celebrated a success Monday afternoon — and restated its commitment to continue moving forward.

With local officials and watershed boosters in attendance, FODC announced a $55,600 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grant to keep the project rolling.

FODC Water Remediation Director Martin Christ said the money will go toward technical research to develop a design for the drainage treatment plant, and to begin a public education campaign to advise business owners and economic development leaders about the economic potential of restoring the creek and forming a community partnership to move forward.

“We have a lot going for us,” Christ said. “We’re confident that the resources and leadership exist in Morgantown.”

Last week, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) reallocated $2.9 million of federal Small Watershed Program money to another project. NRCS said at the time there was no local sponsor, only partial funding and no way to complete the project.

Christ said Monday the defunct Richard Mine, about two miles upstream from Morgantown city limits, discharges 400 gallons per minute into the creek. The discharge pumps about 2 tons of acidity and 700 pounds of metals into the creek per day. The water is generally clean upstream from the mine and loaded with fish, FODC said, but orange and largely lifeless downstream.

The NRCS Deckers Creek reclamation project included the Richard Mine and 12 other mine projects. NRCS completed projects at six sites, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) completed projects on four sites. Of the remaining three, the Richard Mine is the only major source of acid mine drainage.

NRCS previously said it had about $2.9 million to build a Richard Mine treatment facility, but no money for design. And the $2.9 million wouldn’t be enough to build a facility.

Christ said Monday the remaining obstacles are land acquisition, design costs and the now-lost construction funding. But — “The Richard Mine is not such a big problem it can’t be solved.” They have the support of the city of Morgantown and the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB), NRCS data on the best way to treat the drainage, and a DEP pledge to provide 80 percent of the operation and maintenance costs for 20 years.

EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin said FODC has “lots of really good momentum” and the EPA Urban Small Waters Grant will help them leverage new opportunities for funding and community buy-in and engagement in its vision for the creek.

FODC Executive Director Liz Wiles said their goal is to have the entire length of Deckers Creek swimmable and fishable by 2020.

MUB General Manager Tim Ball said FODC won’t allow the funding setback to define the drainage project. “It will be defined by achievement of our shared vision for a healthy Deckers Creek.”

A healthy creek will spur increased stream use, he said, leading to new development and economic investment.

Evan Hansen, with Downstream Strategies water research firm and former FODC treasurer, put some estimated numbers on that potential development: $15 million in one-time benefits, $3 million per year in ongoing benefits. But the Richard Mine project is the key. “The entire watershed won’t really be fixed until we fix Richard.”

Morgantown City Manager Terrence Moore and Councilwoman Jenny Selin mentioned the city’s efforts to help the project so far and pledged their ongoing support. Moore said there’s no specific financial support at this point, but they would be willing to revisit that possibility if the right circumstances arise.