3RQ hosted a three-part virtual series to learn about the research, conservation, and education-based efforts being undertaken by 3RQ member organizations and 3RQ partner researchers in the Upper Ohio River Basin from December 2022 - February 2023.
Learn how you can utilize 3RQ's tools and resources-- including a new 3RQ mapping tool-- for proposal development, project management, and reporting.
Discover current conservation and research within urban watersheds of the three rivers basin. Speakers will include Renee Dolney of the Chalfont Run/Thompson Run Watershed Association; Jan Raether, Watershed Programs Manager for Upstream Pittsburgh; and Patrick Shirey, Associate Director of Collaboratory at the Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education, & Outreach.
Thinking Big Picture: The Ohio River Basin | 2/16/23 10:00 - 11:00 am
Learn about large-scale, collaborative efforts within the Upper Ohio River Basin. Jason Heath, Director of Technical Programs for the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), will discuss the Ohio River Basin Alliance's Ohio River Basin Restoration Plan. Jason is the Chair of the Mining
Impacts Committee and Co-Chair of the Toxics Committee for the ORBA
Restoration Plan development. John Wenzel, Executive Director of the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy, will discuss the organization's work with various partners across the Kiski-Conemaugh River Valley. John Detisch of the Harry Enstrom Chapter of the Izaak Walton League will present a project to create an online imagery map of the Monongahela River.
3RQ REACH Virtual Roundtable Series 2021-2022
3RQ hosted a three-part virtual series to learn about the research, conservation, and education-based efforts being undertaken by 3RQ member organizations and 3RQ partner researchers in the Upper Ohio River Basin. This series resulted in the building of connections and sharing of information on activities within the region. Speakers included watershed groups, university researchers, conservation groups, and waterkeepers.
What's New with 3RQ?
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- 3RQ has been seeking and expanding partnerships with watershed groups, universities, and collaborative networks. Most notably, 3RQ is working with the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds to help provide watershed groups with proper sampling and resources. Additionally, WVWRI has developed a partnership between ORSANCO, USGS, EPA, WV and PA DEP in order to study PFAS sampling methods.
- WVWRI also briefly discussed their data displayed in ArcGIS, an online mapping software. Through ArcGIS, data collected through 3RQ can be displayed on maps accessible to anyone. The data is publicly shared, so data shared as a layer can be added to any existing maps on the platform.
- WATERS is going to receive some large upgrades extending the water quality parameters that it collects and stores. These improvements will add biological parameters, including bacteria and algae, as well as additional chemical parameters on the database. WATERS currently allows for import and export of data, data visualization, and generation of data reports. WVWRI maintains the yearly fees for the service so it is free for anyone to use.
- The Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds (FPW) provides funding to citizen groups and works with federal and state policy issues surrounding water quality and abandoned mine lands. Branden Diehl, Grants and Project Consultant, shared his insights from the new bipartisan infrastructure bill. While the bill will allocate $13 billion for mine reclamation, there are concerns related to its ability to sufficiently fund water quality-focused projects. 3RQ and FPW have developed a survey to assess watershed group needs related to acid mine drainage treatment projects. While it is geared towards watershed groups, all are encouraged to fill out the survey and share it throughout their networks. Branden also shared information about Datashed, a database for AMD treatment projects. While the site is currently limited to Pennsylvania, there are plans to expand to the states and tribes that are included in the infrastructure bill.
3RQ Partner Research
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- Dr. Brady Porter, Dr. Beth Dakin, and graduate student Katie Stupar from Duquesne University presented their research studying water quality and fish populations of Crooked Creek, a tributary to the Allegheny River. The watershed has abandoned mine land (AML) and natural gas extraction wells, though most of the contaminates within Crooked Creek were found to be from acid mine drainage (AMD). Crooked Creek is defined as a warm water fishery (WWF) and has maintained the parameters that are beneficial for such. A few discrepancies were recorded, though natural phenomena could explain the water chemistry changes. Through electrofishing surveys of the watershed, several notable fish species were found to inhabit the watershed, including the Bluebreast Darter, Gilt Darter, Least Brooke Lamprey, and most exciting, the Brindled Madtom. The latter is a threatened fish within Pennsylvania and had not been recorded in Crooked Creek since 1905.
- Joseph Kingsbury, a graduate research assistant at WVWRI, discussed water chemistry trends found from ten years of routine monitoring data in the Monongahela River Basin. Specifically, he discussed the affect of several key management events, including the initiation of a voluntary discharge management plan among operators of AMD treatment plants within the basin. Essentially, this management plan modulates discharge load based on stream flows. Overall, 16 sites were studied, and the results showed that the management strategies are working to improve water chemistry. Chloride, bromide, sulfate, and total dissolved solids (TDS) concentrations all showed decreasing trends. Going forward, a project to improve stream discharge data is in the works to allow for more accurate analyses.
- Dr. James Wood and undergraduate student Emily Huff from West Liberty University presented trends in specific conductance (SPC) and chloride levels within the Upper Ohio River and its tributaries near Wheeling, WV. They found that sites downstream from a mine had significantly increased conductivity, which can be directly attributed to these mining activities. Seasonal changes within conductance and chloride levels were also observed, with conductivity increasing during the summer and chloride increasing in the winter. Summer 2020 was a notably dry summer, and it was found that 58% of sites studied had a significant increase in the conductivity compared to the same sites in 2019. Chloride was highest in AMD impacted streams, and in the winter of 2020/2021, all of the sampling sites had a significant increase in the amount of chloride recorded compared to the previous year. Through this, a correlation between chloride and conductance was discovered within the summer.
3RQ Members Current Projects
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- Kenneth Yonek from the Harry Enstrom chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) discussed successful projects that the chapter had recently completed. Some of these projects include installing bird nest boxes on a federal game land, planting tree seedlings for Earth Day, tutoring local high schoolers for Envirothon, and establishing scholarship programs for high school and secondary education students. Currently, they are waiting for a Growing Greener Grant to update a passive acid mine drainage (AMD) remediation site found near Pigeon Creek and are working with California University of Pennsylvania to remediate bank erosion along Pike Run. Planned for next season are trout stockings and bank cleanups.
- Heather Hulton VanTassel, Executive Director of Three Rivers Waterkeeper (3RWK), discussed the organization and projects they are working on. 3RWK focuses on river patrol and pollution response, water quality monitoring, transportation of dangerous materials, community education and engagement, and Clean Water Act rights along the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. The group provides scientific and legal advocacy and is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global organization. Their current advocacy work includes issues such as fracking waste barging and use, deregulation of water quality standards, legal loopholes, and permit monitoring. 3RWK encourages those with an interest in clean water to join the 3 Rivers Watch to help monitor 3RWK’s 125 plus river miles.
- Tom Thomas, Logan Harris, and Carlos Cintron discussed Scrubgrass Creek Watershed Association (SCWA)'s remediation efforts. In the watershed, there are many AMD discharge points along with abandoned and orphaned wells, which act as conduits bringing AMD to the surface. SCWA has plugged 34 of these abandoned and orphaned wells. Additionally, their remediation efforts have focused on the Sterrett Site, which was the main contributor of iron and AMD. They have been able to bring the iron discharge down from 1.6 mg/L to 0.5 mg/L. In another remediation effort, a site named US-91, SCWA was able to reduce the aluminum discharge from 13 mg/L to 0.2 mg/L. Other efforts include outreach programs with fifth and sixth grader and Earth Day Cleanups for the past 15 years.
3RQ REACH Virtual Roundtable Series 2020-2021
3RQ hosted a three-part virtual roundtable series in order to connect groups throughout the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Upper Ohio river basins. Presenters shared recent accomplishments, challenges, and advice on behalf of their organizations. The series served as a fantastic opportunity to gain information, inspiration, and new connections.
Watch the Recordings
Session 1: 3RQ Information Session
Session 2: Current Work of 3RQ Volunteer Groups Part I
Session 3: Current Work of 3RQ Volunteer Groups Part II
Jacobs Creek Watershed Association keeps busy with current projects in stormwater management, water quality monitoring, recreation, education, and recently their first AMD treatment project! According to Taylor Robbins, Program Coordinator, JCWA utilizes WATERS to store data collected during their monthly monitoring, share results with the public, and easily view data in chart form. To promote recreation in the area, JCWA provides kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes for members to use, hosts a community float and fishing derby, and recently installed a river gauge for enthusiasts to check water level and temperature before venturing out.
- The Washington County Watershed Alliance completed an eight year data logger program that collected continuous data at 25 sites throughout Washington County and provided experience to 14 college students. Jennifer Dann, WCWA Treasurer, expressed that utilizing the WATERS database to store data was integral to the success of this undertaking. The project collected an impressive set of baseline data and showed unexpected water quality results for several streams. One piece of advice Dann offers for anyone before initiating a data logger program is to not underestimate the amount of time and effort it requires.
Guardians of the West Fork, spanning three counties in North Central West Virginia, is an all volunteer organization, headed by president John Ciesla, with a large focus on AMD treatment, trash cleanups, and water recreation. Following the 2016 removal of three low head dams, GWF began an annual community river float along the 75 mile West Fork River Water Trail. Other recreation projects include constant work to establish more boat access sites and working with towns to connect their assets to the river in their Trail Towns initiative.
Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, an urban watershed in Pittsburgh, is tackling climate justice issues, green infrastructure projects, volunteer maintenance of Frick Park, and stream monitoring. According to Lindsey-Rose Flowers, Community Engagement Manager, four largescale green infrastructure projects they are in the final planning stages of will likely capture over one million gallons of stormwater each year! Check out this interactive story map to see how they incorporated public health, social vulnerability, environmental quality, and the urban landscape into their project site determinations.
- The Cheat River watershed, located in Eastern West Virginia, is impacted by 350 acid mine drainage (AMD) seeps. Friends of the Cheat (FOC) has been working to remediate AMD in the watershed since 1995. They are currently accomplishing this by writing watershed based plans for three of their subwatersheds, constructing new treatment systems, and renovating those that aren’t effectively treating the AMD. FOC is also tackling issues new to them, including dam removal, eDNA testing, and sediment and erosion control. According to Madison Ball, Restoration Program Manager, their goal is to recover 90 acres of riparian habitat in just four years to address erosion throughout the watershed.
Captina Conservancy, located in Eastern Ohio, protects Captina Creek primarily by preserving priority properties within the watershed. Working closely with landowners and partner agencies, the conservancy currently holds 1,700 acres in easements. According to Abbey Hayward, Volunteer, Captina Creek is one of the premier watersheds in Ohio and is home to the state endangered hellbender. Captina Conservancy also utilizes partnerships to accomplish water monitoring throughout the watershed. In addition to their three data logger sites, they also work closely with the Ohio EPA and Soil and Water Conservation District volunteers to collect data.
- Laura Blood, Source Water Protection Manager for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC), provided the perspective of source water protection for drinking water. MAWC monitors over 57 sites across the Youghiogheny River and Beaver Run source water protection areas. These sites are monitored regularly for various water quality parameters, including total nitrogen and phosphorus loadings. According to Blood, the 3RQ map was very helpful in seeing what other groups were monitoring in these areas to combine efforts wherever possible. One future direction MAWC is working towards is connecting water quality to land use management. This includes providing information on best management practices to landowners and calculating potential and actual reductions from utilizing these practices over time.
- Eric Harder, Youghiogheny Riverkeeper, does exactly as his title implies. This includes hauling hundreds of tires from the river, monitoring for plastic pollution in the form of nurdles, testing for bacteria, and remaining vigilant for threats to the health of the river and local communities. The Youghiogheny Riverkeeper is housed within Mountain Watershed Association (MWA) which is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance. MWA primarily protects the Indian Creek watershed, a subwatershed of the Youghiogheny. Together, Harder and MWA are proactive against issues from active and prelaw coal mining, hazardous waste discharges, and fracking activities.