Abstract: Session D  8:50 am (Back to Session D)
The Rebirth of the Little Coal River

 Thomas F. Elkins
Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.
Bridgeport, WV

The Little Coal River is a unique example of how man can restore what man has destroyed. History was not kind to the Little Coal River and as a result of coal mining, silviculture, citizen sewage/trash, and the construction of a four-lane highway, the river was dramatically impacted by silt deposits. Over the industrial and construction years, silt was dumped into the river in enormous amounts. The naturally flowing stream that was once populated with an abundance of fish and aquatic organisms and many deep holes had become shallow and nearly lifeless.

A six-year effort led by the WVDEP to restore the river was completed in 2014. A multi-million-dollar restoration effort was professionally designed and constructed by experts using natural stream design methodology. The program involved the installation of over 200 in-stream structures designed to move sediment and re-channel the river in order to recreate hydrology for in-stream habitat and riparian bank protection.

Anglers have now discovered the rivers’ rebirth, as have the recreational boaters. The in-stream structures have helped recreate the deep holes “some now over 11 feet deep” and the macro-invertebrate population has been reestablished. The fish population is wildly diverse. Walleye, Muskie, Small-mouth, spotted, white and other bass species along with Garr, an occasional Trout, Drum and Carp can all be found in the river. Catches by anglers of 40 to 50 fish per trip are not unusual.

The local watershed group have created public recreational access points that are plentiful and float trips between access points range from 2 miles to 14 miles in length. The Little Coal has become a beautiful and productive river again and has rapidly become one of the areas hottest tourist attractions.