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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: October 2012

Oct
30
2012

Tributary Tuesday: Lost River (Hardy County, W.Va.)

True to its name, West Virginia’s “Lost River” disappears.

Lost River begins in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. But just a few miles downstream, it flows into a series of caves and is carried underground. Known locally as “the Sinks,” these caves shelter the river until it reaches Wardensville, where it emerges under a different name: the Cacapon.

Trees and valleys hover over Lost River in the fall.

Image courtesy Mark Plummer/Flickr

Looking for Lost River? Catch a glimpse in the 3,700-acre Lost River State Park. And if the weather is hiker-friendly, take a trip up to Cranny Crow Overlook, where, at 3,200 feet high, you will be able to see five counties in two states. The park also offers opportunities for horseback riding and swimming.

A view from Cranny Crook Overlook near Lost River.

Image courtesy vitia/Flickr

Explore the nearby Trout Pond Recreation Area to enjoy the only natural lake in West Virginia, created by a sinkhole that filled with water from a mountain stream. Trout Pond and the neighboring Rockcliff Lake boast sandy mountainside beaches, optimal fishing and challenging hiking trails.

More from Lost River:

  • For local flavor, visit the Lost River Artisan's Cooperative, a museum that houses work from regional artists and Civil War-era artifacts found on the grounds.
  • Consider planning your trip around the annual Heritage Weekend in Hardy County, W.Va., a celebration of quilting crafts, local architecture and fiddle, banjo and mandolin music.
  • Nearby, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests provide a stretch of “real wilderness” from one end of Virginia to the other, crossing into parts of West Virginia and Kentucky.
Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.


Oct
26
2012

New mobile app helps users find, visit hundreds of Bay attractions

The National Park Service (NPS) has launched a new mobile app to help users find and visit the countless attractions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, from parks, trails and camp grounds to museums and historic sites.

Image courtesy alliecat1881/Flickr

Called Chesapeake Explorer, the app is a digital guide to sight-seeing in all six Bay states and the District of Columbia. Meant to connect users to the region’s beauty, history and heritage, the ever-expanding app places up-to-date visitor information—think hours, locations and fees—in the palm of your hand.

The app can use geo-location to map nearby parks and trails. It can tag favorites and take, store and send photos. And it can group together similar sites and build thematic tours so users can visit the places that interest them most, whether it is a scenic lighthouse, a series of sites linked to Bay boatbuilding or a brand new place to hike, bike or launch a canoe.

The app is now available for the iPhone and will soon be available for Android devices.

Learn more about Chesapeake Explorer.



Oct
24
2012

Watershed Wednesday: Lackawanna River Corridor Association (Lackawanna County, Pa.)

Five thousand cubic yards of demolition waste and bricks are scattered around an oil truck that is lodged into a hillside. The mess was left behind long ago, and the Lackawanna River Corridor Association (LRCA) is doing everything it can to clean it up.

The mess sits on land that borders the Lackawanna River, a northeastern Pennsylvania tributary to the Susquehanna. The trash has caused the river’s water quality and wildlife habitat to deteriorate, but a Lackawanna Greenway initiative will clean up this riverside land and open it to the public, giving bikers and pedestrians a chance to enjoy their local waterway.

Trail construction is being managed by LRCA’s partner, Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority.

“We hope to provide an outlet for recreation for everybody in the community,” explained LRCA Executive Director Bernie McGurl. “It’s a way for people to walk to work, and it also increases property values.”

While two miles of the completed trail run through downtown Scranton, Bernie calls this a “lifelong project.” There is still much work to be done!

The scenic Lackawanna River bordered by trees.

Image courtesy Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority 

“Cleaning” coal

Northeastern Pennsylvania contains some of the largest anthracite coal mines in the world. While coal once contributed to the economic growth of cities like Scranton, coal mining has also left behind a number of environmental problems. Some of them, like LRCA’s recently acquired coal-dumping ground, are visible; others live out of sight, underground, in abandoned mines.

There, stormwater percolates.

“We have a huge body of water in the abandoned mines underneath Scranton,” said McGurl. “It’s about the size of Lake Wallenpaupack and holds about 100 billion gallons.”

“Imagine Manhattan’s subway system on steroids,” McGurl continued. “It’s 1,100 feet deep… and then filled with water.”

But keeping the water underground is not an option. Trapped, it would be left to flood basements and low-elevation residences in many parts of Scranton. So the mine water is released into the Lackawanna River through this borehole at a rate of 100 million gallons of water per day.

A person dips their hands into the Lackawanna River south of the borehole and shows how orange the mud is.

Image courtesy Miguel Angel de la Cueva

The water coming from the coal mines is high in iron; three to four tons are discharged into the Lackawanna River each day from this borehole. Iron robs the water of dissolved oxygen, which fish and other aquatic wildlife need to survive.

Iron forms orange, red and yellow slime on the river’s banks and rocks. Other minerals, like aluminum, are also discharged into the river through the borehole.

While the borehole is necessary to prevent flooding, LRCA and other organizations have long been discussing alternative solutions. Some have considered constructing a mineral harvesting plant downstream of the borehole. This would remove minerals from the water and allow them to be sold to electric-generation and geothermal companies.

While the demise of the coal era has left Scranton and surrounding areas with environmental and economic struggles, Bernie and his team at LRCA remain hopeful.

“I like to use the river and the water that flows through the river as a metaphor, speaking to how we relate to each other and what our values as a community are,” explained Bernie. “It tells everyone downstream what we value and the environment that we live in.”

The organization celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. From working with the Scranton Sewer Authority to revamp the city’s combined overflow system to transforming abandoned coal sites into recreation areas, Bernie and his team have accomplished a tremendous amount in just a quarter-century.

More from the Lackawanna River Corridor Association:

  • LRCA is cleaning up an abandoned mine site in Old Forge, Pa. This 30-acre Brownfields Cleanup project will remove coal waste piles, install a new stormwater drainage system and plant native plants on the site.
  • Photographer Miguel Angel de la Cueva documented the effects of coal mining in the region with photographs and stories.
  • The Lackawanna Valley Conservancy works with LRCA and property owners to preserve land in the watershed.
  • Learn more about coal mining with these rare underground mine photos.
Caitlin Finnerty's avatar
About Caitlin Finnerty - Caitlin Finnerty is the Communications Staffer at the Chesapeake Research Consortium and Chesapeake Bay Program. Caitlin grew up digging for dinosaur bones and making mud pies in Harrisburg, Pa. Her fine arts degree landed her environmental field work jobs everywhere from Oregon to Maryland. Now settled in Baltimore, she is eagerly expecting her first child while creating an urban garden oasis on her cement patio.



Oct
23
2012

EPA launches mobile website to help users determine health of local waterways

A paddler, a swimmer or a hiker itching to cool his tired toes can stand at the edge of a stream and judge the water. Is it clear? Is it clean? Are there critters at hand? But he won’t find an answer to his most basic question: How healthy is my waterway?

Enter the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In celebration of the Clean Water Act, the EPA has launched a new website to help users learn more about the health of their local rivers, streams and lakes.

Using information gathered from state water quality monitoring reports, the smart phone and tablet-friendly site reveals where pollution has been reported and what is being done to reduce it.

Users can engage a smart phone’s GPS to list waters within a five-mile radius or enter a zip code or place name into a search box to check on locations throughout the United States.

A few quick searches for rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed show polluted and unpolluted waters. Happy Creek in Front Royal, Va., was deemed polluted in 2008, harboring disease-causing bacteria and other microbes. But West Virginia’s Seneca Creek was assessed as unpolluted in 2010. Other waters remain “unassessed” or untested due to shortages in staff and funding.

The website’s simple descriptions and ultra-local perspective are meant to make science more accessible, understandable and relevant.

Learn more about How’s My Waterway.



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