For Immediate Release
August 5, 2016
Mineral City, Ohio – This month marks the 20th year since community residents gathered in the Mineral City Fire Station to learn about a new government program to repair streams impacted by historical mining practices. That group grew and organized into what has come to be known as the Huff Run Watershed Restoration Partnership (HRWRP), a local nonprofit that has been instrumental in bringing over $9 million dollars in grant and fundraising dollars to the Watershed area. They now meet in a new fire station, but the mission remains the same: continue to restore the stream so that fish and bugs have a viable habitat to live in and improve the community through which Huff Run flows.
“Huff Run has been an inspiration to communities around the state and nation” shares Tuscarawas County Commissioner and HRWRP Board Member Belle Everett. “The ability of this group to stay active, complete over 20 construction projects, and work with so many private landowners is remarkable. They were the reason organizing started in the Village of Tuscarawas area, and now we have a community group ourselves and are constructing our first restoration project!” Ms. Everett has been involved with the organization for ten years.
In 2006 Rural Action, an Athens-area nonprofit, took over coordination of the Huff Run Watershed project, administering all grants and implementing a national service program. Since then over 19 AmeriCorps members have served a year of water monitoring, environmental educating, and community organizing at the Mineral City office. AmeriCorps is similar to Peace Corps where members commit to serving a year-long term addressing needs in impoverished or underserved areas of the nation. “Having the ability to work in my field of study and improve the water in my hometown is a great experience” shares Sarah Homan, current Huff Run Watershed AmeriCorps member. Sarah is one of the first members who are originally from the watershed; in her youth she worked with the then-member Michelle Shively on a seventh-grade science project that focused on Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), the biggest pollutant in Huff Run. Ms. Shively is now a watershed coordinator with Rural Action in the Sunday Creek Watershed, an AMD-impacted watershed in southeastern Ohio and continues to collaborate with Ms. Homan in the HRWRP office.
“The investment in the restoration of our 10-mile long stream is ongoing and very collaborative” continues Marissa Lautzenheiser, the Middle Tuscarawas River Watershed Coordinator with Rural Action that oversees work in the Huff Run Watershed. “We were awarded a $1.7 million dollar mitigation project, supported by ODOT, in spring 2015 and we are about to start construction on it. It will continue to reverse the impacts of AMD on the stream and really make it an ecosystem where we can find the types of native fish and aquatic bugs that should be living here.” Funding for the various project completed in Huff Run have come from sources such as US Environmental Protection Agency, US Dept. of Interior- Office of Surface Mining, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources – Divisions of Mineral Resources Management and Soil and Water Resources, Ohio Dept. of Transportation, and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, as well as numerous local funders and private foundations.
An integral part of the restoration strategy in Huff Run has been education. Since the first field trips started in 2003 over 10,000 local students have had in-class demonstrations of basic science principals that are in practice in Huff Run, followed by a field day in the stream. Community volunteers, agency staff, and teachers and administrators have made it possible for these students to become interested in science as a career and see the real-life application of the concepts they learn in class. Some students have gone on and continued their involvement, like AmeriCorps member Sarah Homan and Coordinator Marissa Lautzenheiser.
The public is invited to celebrate the beginning of the ODOT stream mitigation project and the 20th anniversary of HRWRP at a pair of events this coming Friday, August 12th. At 5:30pm there will be a brief groundbreaking ceremony at the bridge over Sattler Bottom Road, the site of the upcoming mitigation project. Following that event an anniversary celebration with food, drinks, music, and a silent auction will be held at the Zoar School House, located at 254 E. 4th St, Zoar, OH 44697. There is no cost for these events but donations will be accepted. For any questions related to the events feel free to contact the office at (330) 859-1050.
Huff Run Watershed is a project of Rural Action’s Watershed Restoration program. Through their watershed program, Rural Action works to restore ecosystems by improving water quality and enhancing wildlife habitat with community support and involvement. The major pollution concern in the stream is acid mine drainage (AMD), the result of historic unregulated coal mining. AMD has left many streams stained orange with metals and heavily polluted. Rural Action has worked with government agencies and other nonprofits to complete 20 major AMD restoration projects in the local area.
Rural Action is a member-based sustainable community development organization. Their mission is to foster social, economic, and environmental justice in Appalachian Ohio. Learn more about Rural Action at www.ruralaction.org. You can also keep up with their work on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.