River Enthusiasts Tap into Public’s Interest About Mon
Morgantown Dominion Post
13 September 2012
GOODWILL CITY - THIS COLUMN HIGHLIGHTS positive experiences that
regularly occur in the Morgantown area. The hope is that
spotlighting such experiences will remind people of the
friendliness that defines the majority of West Virginia’s
Mountaineers nation. IF YOU HAVE an experience to share, send
information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
IT STARTED IN 2000 as the Upper Monongahela Committee for Better
Boating, a group of residents who used the Monongahela River for
business and for pleasure.
They wanted better recreational access to the Mon River, with U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers considering recreational needs when it set
hours for the Opekiska, Hildebrand and Morgantown navigational
In 2004, to reflect a broader spectrum of interests, the name was
changed to Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA).
The members became active in the Mon River Recreation and Commerce
Committee of the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, resulting in
the first Mon River Summit.
The summit drew a variety of people with river interests, from
business and industry to state officials, Army Corps officers and
independent boating groups.
If it relates to the Monongahela River in some way, the key
members of UMRA are following things closely. This includes the
September 2009 Dunkard Creek fish kill and the current debate on
drilling Marcellus shale.
UMRA’s mission, as posted on the website, is, “to promote the
general development of the area encompassed by the drainage basin
for the Upper Monongahela River in West Virginia.”
The group has grown in prestige in the boating world. It’s even
organized regular meetings between the Army Corps Pittsburgh
District engineer and West Virginia and Pennsylvania boating
While UMRA has a serious mission, the founders don’t hide their
sense of humor. Hidden at the bottom of the links on the UMRA
website is “The Loonies Behind UMRA.”
Key among them are Don Strimbeck, a retired energy researcher and
Army colonel who lives in Granville, and Wally Venable, a retired
WVU engineering professor. Both have docks on the Mon and boat on
Strimbeck is UMRA’s resident researcher. He maintains a massive
e-mail contact list, sending daily messages containing articles on
issues affecting the Mon.
His sources range from the Wall Street Journal to the Binghamton
Press & Sun Bulletin, in the heart of New York’s shaledrilling
The Daily Update includes alerts of problems, such as the recent
spill of drilling lubricant into Dunkard Creek, near Blacksville,
by a company running a pipe under the creek as part of a Marcellus
As interest in Marcellus shale issues have grown, his Daily Update
has become a way to keep up with concerns being raised far from
the shores of the Mon.