A multi-partner conservation project is currently underway within the Chesapeake Bay drainage to protect and restore valuable streambank and farmland along the Cacapon River, near the town of Wardensville in Hardy County, WV.
With funding from a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Conservation Innovation Grant, West Virginia University (WVU) & Canaan Valley Institute (CVI) are in the process of stabilizing approximately 3,000 linear feet of streambank on property along the Cacapon River. Past natural and anthropogenic disturbances along the Cacapon River have caused excessive bank erosion, leading to increased sediment yields in the Cacapon River watershed. The purpose of the project is to restore stream stability and enhance ecological habitat.
CVI and WVU have identified several potential stabilization properties throughout the watershed. This particular site was identified as a priority project because of its highly erodible conditions and the fact that it allows work on both sides of the stream, allowing for more complete restoration. One side of the restoration site will be protected by an existing conservation easement agreement; the landowner on the other side is working with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency to establish a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) project. The CREP contract will include riparian vegetation and fencing of a 35 foot riparian corridor. A strip of warm season grasses is also being planted beyond the woody buffer. WVCA & West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) have also contributed funding through the Chesapeake Bay Program for additional fence funding.
CVI is responsible for project design and construction. Natural stream design principles are being implemented including installation of wood and rock combination structures to deflect flow away from streambanks; construction of bankfull benches and floodprone areas; and creating riparian habitat where it is nonexistent or improving where it is in poor condition. Native woody vegetation will be established on streambanks and cattle access will be limited. Stabilizing streambanks requires cutting back nearly vertical banks to more stable 1:1 slopes, which are found on stable stretches of the stream, and installing bankful benches. These bank slopes are being seeded and mulched, and live stakes will be planted.
CVI & WVU have worked with the West Virginia Conservation Agency to identify and install durable bioengineering materials that can be used to prevent erosion and allow for the re-establishment of vegetation on these slopes. Coconut and straw erosion control matting are being installed on the bank and benches as well as coconut coir logs being staked into the toe of the slope.
The Cacapon and Lost River Land Trust have served as a liaison between the numerous project partners and the landowners. The project is distinctive in that it features numerous partners working collaboratively to bring together financial and technical resources to protect valuable resources within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Once the site is stabilized, it will provide an opportunity for other landowners in the watershed to observe implemented stabilization techniques.