December 8, 2023

Rural Action and landowner partnership improves Little Muskingum River water quality

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ohio — Thanks to the United States Environmental Protection Agency funding, more than two acres of wetlands, five acres of trees, and 560 feet of streambank will be restored on private property along the Little Muskingum River.

The Little Muskingum Wetland and Stream Restoration project will restore wetlands and the riparian buffer — the vegetated land surrounding a stream or river — to reduce the two main sources of water quality issues in the Little Muskingum River: sediment and bacteria runoff.

Sedimentation and bacteria are statewide. Water moving across the land — runoff —can contain bacteria from failing home sewage treatment systems and agricultural lands creating health hazards. At the same time, sediment alters the water chemistry, aquatic habitat, and stream structure. Trees are an important component of stabilizing streambanks and reducing the amount of runoff entering the stream.

This project stems from a collaboration between Thomas Biebighauser, a Wildlife Biologist and Wetland Ecologist who worked with private landowners Laura and David Hughes on a plan to improve water quality and wildlife habitat, and Rural Action. While Biebighauser and the Hughes worked together, Rural Action developed a Nonpoint Source Implementation Strategies plan, or NPS-IS, for the Wingett Run watershed — where the Hughes reside — to address water quality impairments and make this project eligible for EPA Section 319(h) funding.

Enhancing the riparian buffer and connection to the floodplain will improve stream health not only in the Hughes’ backyard, but for miles downstream. With annual flooding, sediment flows into the Little Muskingum River from the Hughes’ property at an increasing rate each year.

The Wingett Run watershed is an area bustling with wildlife, including seven state-listed threatened and endangered species, and surrounded by the Wayne National Forest. Yet, factors from current and past land use still impact downstream water quality for recreation and human health.

“We can’t wait for the finished wetlands, riparian corridors, native meadows, and stream restoration because it will boost the numbers and diversity of wildlife and water quality,” David says.

The Little Muskingum Wetland and Stream Restoration project construction is slated to begin in the summer of 2024. After completion, there will be opportunities to visit the project with the landowners.

This project has been funded through a Section 319(h) Nonpoint Source Program grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency through an assistance agreement with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The section 319(h) grant program was established within the Clean Water Act, enabling federal assistance for restoring water quality by reducing nonpoint source pollutants such as nutrients, sediment and bacteria, and improving stream and floodplain habitat.

Rural Action is a regional community development organization with a 32-county footprint working with members and community leaders on a range of quality of life, environmental, and economic projects across rural Appalachian Ohio. Its mission is to build a more just economy by developing the region’s assets in environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways. Learn more about Rural Action at



Name: Hannah Kopp

Title: Watershed Program Manager


Phone: 740-677-4047 (ext. 360)