Volunteer associations have been working to improve water quality for decades
August 30, 2011
By John McVey, Journal staff writer , journal-news.net
MARTINSBURG - A lot of attention recently has been drawn to the impact of local waterways on the Chesapeake Bay, but a group of tri-county organizations have been working to clean up bay tributaries for many years.
For decades, several watershed associations throughout the tri-county have "adopted" streams and creeks, taking care of them and monitoring their water quality.
"These are all volunteer-based groups, and they do magnificent work," Matthew Pennington said in a recent interview.
He is the new Chesapeake Bay program manager with Region 9 Planning and Development Council.
"They should be recognized for what they are doing for the watershed," Pennington continued. "There are a lot of great individuals doing great work."
Under a presidential executive order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued new strict limits on nutrient pollution, that is nitrogen and phosphorus, and sediment pollution that can get into the Chesapeake Bay via its tributaries.
The greater, eight-county Eastern Panhandle is in the Potomac River watershed, a major tributary of the bay.
The bay restoration program focus is on reducing pollution from wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff and agricultural operations.
Through various projects, like removing trash and garbage from streams, repairing and enhancing riparian buffers and reaching out to the community with educational programs, tri-county watershed associations work to improve the water quality of streams and creeks that run into the Potomac River.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection held an informational meeting for Eastern Panhandle watershed associations last week in Romney to bring them up to date on Phase II of the DEP's Water Implementation Plan to comply with the EPA's pollution-limit mandates.
Pennington, who attended the meeting, said what the watershed associations do to clean up local waterways will have an impact on the Chesapeake Bay program.
"I also wanted to add how fortunate this area of West Virginia is to have these volunteer watershed groups," he wrote in an email. "They dedicate a large amount of time and effort to cleaning up local waterways so that all citizens in the area may enjoy them."
Sandra Bernardi with the Opequon Creek Project Team attended the DEP's meeting for watershed groups, which she described as very informative.
"Of course, as a watershed organization, we were most focused on how we can help implement the (Watershed Implementation Plan) and we will continue our education outreach programs ...," she wrote in an email.
Gale Foulds with the Sleepy Creek Watershed Association, who also attended the DEP's meeting, said her group will continue to conduct programs to improve the water quality of local waterways, which at the very least have an indirect benefit for the Chesapeake Bay.