Little Coal Restoration
Since 2007, the Coal River Group has partnered with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on a multi-million dollar restoration project on the Little Coal River.
The Little Coal River, one of the sections of the Coal River watershed listed as "impaired" by the DEP's Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) report, has been choked with sand and over-sedimentation from years of coal mining, logging, road building, and development. The restoration project involves building instream structures in the river channel to redirect the river's flow and thereby flush excess sediment.
The structures, often shaped in the form of V's, are made out of boulders and large logs. They serve to redirect the river's flow into a narrow channel, which increases the stream's flow velocity and carves out deep pools around the strategically placed boulders. As a result, the rocks and gravel on the bottom of the river channel are scoured of sand and can once again provide habitat for aquatic insects that feed fish.
The project funds come from the DEP's river restoration trust fund, a fund made from fines to coal companies.
The first extent, which began in 2007, covered the stretch of river from MacCorckle to Corridor G and has 60 completed instream structures.
The next $3 million phase of the project is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2012 and will stretch from Danville to the forks of the Coal at Alum Creek. Upon completion, the project will build over 100 instream structures along the Little Coal.
Today the completed sections of the Little Coal are among the most popular paddling spots on the Coal River Walhonde Water Trail. The boulders blend in so naturally that paddlers often assume they are natural. The structures have already visibly improved sedimentation in these sections and provide a beautiful stretch of river. Preliminary studies by WVU have shown significant reductions in sand and increases in gravel, as well as increases in benthic macroinvertebrates.