Friends of the Cheat receives $250k in grant funding from two sources

Monongalia

ALBRIGHT, W.Va. – Friends of the Cheat (FOC), a nonprofit focused on protecting and cherishing the Cheat River, recently received a $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation (ASF).

FOC applied for the grant in mid-July 2020 and the announcement they had been chosen was met with excitement. Madison Ball, FOC’s restoration program manager, said the money will be put to good use.

Ball

The ASF grant will support our Cheat River Restoration program. Under this program, we collect several water quality samples. Anywhere from a few hundred a year across the watershed, tracking impairments such as acid mine drainage, but also tracking improvements from our treatment system.

Madison Ball – Restoration Program Manager, FOC

Ball said that a lot of the time, FOC does not have the funds to see how well projects they implement are doing. However, this ASF funding allows for looking back on previous implementations, which is critical to the work FOC does.

The nonprofit will be able to reflect and assess and investigate the new sources of pollution in the watershed. This way, they can accurately make plans for the future.

Cheat River near Albright

“This funding is critical to FOC,” Ball said. “Really, this is funding that would come out of our normal fundraising from small donations throughout the year. Obviously, with COVID, that can put a strain on our local folks that support us, so having this large donation is immensely impactful for our organization. And it really allows us to do the important work that we’re doing. And it alleviates some of that stress into 2021. I mean, it’s just really important, and we couldn’t be more happy to have been awarded these funds.”

Ball said the ASF grant even allows FOC to fund some administrative costs, such as rent and utilities. These funds, she said again, are vital to FOC’s operations.

“It’s really critical for accomplishing our goals throughout the year,” she said.

Another funding source that will be critical to FOC’s operations in 2021 is a recent grant it received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The roughly $200,000 grant came from the organization’s Central Appalachia Habitat Stewardship Program, Ball said.

Cheat River near Albright

“It focuses on improving conditions and habitats for the region’s most iconic species, specifically: some of those freshwater mussels, the eastern hellbender, brook trout,” she said. “We have all three in Cheat, and all three are impacted by the Albright Power Dam.”

The dam has not been operational since the plant closed in 2012, but it still poses a hazard to the waterway. Now, as it sits abandoned without future development plans, FOC will perform preliminary assessments.

Cheat River near Albright

The preliminary study will see what it would take to improve the habitat and ultimately remove the dam.

“This funding is critical for the dam removal work,” Ball said. “The hardest stage to fund is usually this preliminary to intermediate stage. Once we get past some of the study components, it’s going to be easier to fund the flashy construction removal process. But really, the critical funds are getting us to that stage, so we’re immensely grateful.”

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