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Aug. 7 groundbreaking set for $ 8 million Preston County dam rehabilitation project

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A collaboration between the West Virginia Conservation Agency, the Monongahela Conservation District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and West Virginia University will result in improved safety for local residents, real savings for some Preston County water customers and research for faculty and students.

At 11 a.m. on Aug. 7, ground will be broken on a nearly $8 million rehabilitation of the Upper Deckers Creek Site 1 dam in Preston County. The depth of water behind the dam, built in 1969, will be increased by 10 feet to create a dedicated water supply for the Public Service District No. 1 in Arthurdale and to bring the dam into current design and construction standards.

“The dam will continue to provide the flood protection it has provided, as well as a dedicated source of water that will allow Preston County to continue to grow,” said WVCA Executive Director Brian Farkas.

Unique to this project, though, is a collaboration that will allow faculty and students to do research on mitigation practices used to replace the lost acreage utilized to expand the water boundaries of the dam. The research team is led by Jason Hubbart, director of the WVU Institute of Water Security and Science, and he and WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design faculty and students are conducting the research.

“Through the IWSS and WVU Davis College, we are able to have that intersection between mitigation and education,” Farkas said.

Farkas, who previously served on the WVU Davis College Visiting Committee, said that it was during a committee meeting when the College’s dean presented information on plans for a $6.7 million upgrade to the J.W. Ruby Research Farm in Reedsville, supported by the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust.

“We saw a place where we could do this project and benefit the college and the farm at the same time,” Farkas said. “By doing this, we are saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in mitigation costs, providing a considerable savings for the public service district rate payers.”

Dan Robison, dean of the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, lauded the great partnership the project represents.

“This is a terrific collaboration between our College, the Conservation Agency and related organizations, including the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service,” Robison said. “It is a chance to help the local community, contribute toward good conservation and advance the work and study of our faculty and students.”

The mitigation was going to cost an estimated $2.5 million, but by working on the farm, the cost was reduced to less than $1.3 million. Since plans for the J.W. Ruby Research Farm included mitigation efforts, and the WVCA needed to be able to satisfy the Clean Water Act’s rules, saying they had to offset the impacts of their project, the two teamed up.

WVU provided a perpetual easement on the J.W. Ruby Research Farm, and the WVCA will provide approximately $500,000 to support four research projects that will examine the proposed before, during and after effects of mitigation practices on Ruby Run and development of the associated reservoir at the J.W. Ruby Research Farm.

Researchers will monitor sediment and pollution; examine the impact of restoration on the plants and animals in the area; use drones to provide an aerial inventory of how the landscape is altered; and develop an education plan to teach others about restoration efforts and the natural resources data that will be collected, including a series of interpretive signs that will be installed along a walking trail.

“It’s a win-win in many ways, including a rare opportunity to monitor the before and after effects of mitigation,” Hubbart said.

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