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					       Raccoon Creek News
 Winter 2006                                          A living River Of Promise

     Stream Sweep Ready For
        Wellston Park Road

By Wendy Shields
Vinton Soil & Water Conservation District

On a cold day last winter, volunteers from several counties
gathered in the town of Carbondale to target illegal dump-
ing along Beckler Road in western Athens County. The
stream cleanup was a huge success thanks to the generous

support of the Waterloo Township Trustees, Vinton Soil &
Water Conservation District, Athens Solid Waste District,
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, REUSE Indus-
tries, Ohio University, McKee's Auto Wrecking, SEPTA
Correctional Facility, and numerous local volunteers. A           Top Little Raccoon Creek
special thanks to Glen Stout of Zaleski for bringing his
tractor and to Tom O’Grady of the Athens Hocking Soil           Projects Nearing Completion
Waste District who was not only generous with bags and
                                                              By Brett Laverty

gloves but provided numerous volunteers and his own
                                                              Vinton Soil & Water Conservation District
sweat equity. By the time we broke for chili, the township
dump trucks were loaded with more than 10 tons of tires
                                                              Restoration efforts on Little Raccoon Creek will reach an
and 20 cubic yards of appliances, couches, car parts, and
                                                              important milestone during the coming year as work
beer bottles. Thanks to everyone that came out last year to
                                                              reaches completion on three important treatment projects
support Raccoon Creek.
                                                              at the Broken Aro Mine in Jackson County. Nearly 250
This year, we have chosen to tackle a stretch of Wellston     tons of acid leaches out of this abandoned surface mine
Park Road near Lake Alma in eastern Jackson County            each year making it the largest source of acid mine drain-
(Milton Township Road 384). This lowland area is next to      age in entire Little Raccoon Creek Watershed.

Little Raccoon Creek and is a chronic dumping area due to
its remote location. We are seeking volunteers to help with   The Broken Aro Mine was stripped for coal in the 1950’s
this years cleanup, which will be held on Saturday,           by the Broken Aro Coal Company of Okmulgee, Okla-
March 18 from 9AM—Noon. Volunteers should meet at             homa. According to local news accounts, the whole opera-
the Lake Alma picnic area located near Little Raccoon         tion was shipped to the site by railcar, which included a
Creek (along SR 349). We are also seeking local paddlers      modern screening and washing operation for the process-
to bring canoes and kayaks to help with the stream sweep.     ing of coal. An estimated 2.6 million tons of coal was
Arrangements are currently being made for lunch after-        stripped (see photo on page 3) in just seven years and was
wards. So mark your calendars and donate a few hours this     abandoned after the coal was completely exhausted. Due
year to help support Raccoon Creek.                           to the lack of environmental regulations, the company left
                                                              behind a withered moonscape of blasted pits, towering
                                                              piles of rock, and a stream valley buried some 70 feet deep
                                                              in toxic coal refuse.
                                                              Acid mine drainage forms as rainfall soaks into the mining
                                                              wastes and chemically reacts with a common mineral refe-
                                                              reed to as iron pyrite or “fools gold”. Sulfuric acid is pro-

                                                              duced once the iron pyrite is dissolved, which can continue
                                                              to leach out heavy metals like iron and aluminum. This
                                                              chemical soup is very harmful to aquatic life and has the
                                                              potential to strip all life from local streams. The remark-
                                                              able thing about Broken Aro is that these chemical reac-
                                                              tions have continued nonstop for nearly half a century.
                                                                                                        (Continued on page 3)
       PAGE 2                                    R A CC OON CREE K NEW S                                      WINTER 2006

     Call Us!                                                                                    Raccoon Creek

                                                                                                    Ben McCament

                                             The Raccoon Creek watershed is large; approximately 680 square miles stretching
                                             from southern Hocking & eastern Athens Counties down to the Ohio River in Gal-
                                             lia County. The creek is 112 miles long, which leads many to ask “why isn’t it a
Ohio University – ILGARD
                                             river ?” I still don’t have a good answer for that one. Yet, the size of our water-
143 Technology and Enterprise BLDG
                                             shed presents both opportunities and challenges for all of us. Issues that challenge
Athens, Ohio 45701-2979
                                             the health of Raccoon Creek include acid mine drainage (AMD), erosion, sedi-
                                             mentation, septic (bacteria), and nutrients from agricultural impacts. The good
                                             news is that the increasing health of Raccoon Creek has begun to attract the atten-
           Raccoon Creek
                                             tion of outdoor enthusiasts who see numerous hunting, fishing, and paddling op-
        Watershed Coordinator
                                             portunities along this scenic southeast Ohio stream.
                       Ben McCament          The number one water quality problem we face, acid mine drainage, has required
                        (740) 597-1473       a tremendous amount of time, resources, and funding. By the end of 2007 the part-
                   mccament@ohiou.edu        ners will have spent nearly 6.5 million dollars on treating and eliminating acid
                                             mine drainage in the Headwaters and in Little Raccoon Creek. And as long as the
Vinton Soil & Water                          political will and funding exists, we don’t plan on stopping there; not until the
Conservation District                        entire length of Raccoon Creek is relieved from the impacts of acidic mine water.
31935 State Route 93
McArthur, Ohio 45651                         Significant water quality improvements have occurred in Raccoon Creek in the
                                             past 10 to 15 years due to mining regulation, abandoned mine land reclamation
                                             and, acid mine drainage treatment. For example, the lower section of Little Rac-
                                             coon Creek near the Village of Vinton only had one species of fish as recently as
   Raccoon Creek Projects Manager
                                             1984. A sampling last year found 16 species, with three spotted bass each weigh-
                                             ing over a pound. Up until recently, the upper Raccoon Creek in Zaleski State
                             Brett Laverty
                           (740) 596-8826    Forest was severely impaired from the affects of mining. New biological data
                brettlaverty@hotmail.com     from 2005 indicates that nearly 20 species of fish are now present, with spotted
                                             bass again over a pound (for those who don’t fish, those are big spotted bass!).
                                             Other species such as rock bass, largemouth bass, catfish, grass pickerel, sunfish,
     Public Outreach Coordinator             darters, suckers, etc…. are returning as well.
                                                                                                      The Raccoon Creek part-
                           Wendy Shields                                                              ners continue to address
                          (740) 596-8826                                                              acid mine drainage and
                   wlshields@yahoo.com                                                                other water quality issues
                                                                                                      in order to create a truly
Ohio Department of                                                                                    healthy and thriving
Natural Resources                                                                                     stream. So what does a
Division of Mineral Resource Management                                                               healthy Raccoon Creek
34 Portsmouth Street                                                                                  mean for you? It means a
Jackson, Ohio 45640                                                                                   place for recreation such
                                                                                                      as fishing, canoeing,
                                                                                                      swimming, relaxing, hunt-
     Environmental Project Officer           ing, hiking, or whatever stream activity you prefer. It means increased opportuni-
                                             ties for economic growth through recreation and tourism. For the partnership, it’s
                           Mitch Farley      the sense of accomplishment for a job well done and the notion of leaving the
                         (740) 286-6411      creek in better shape than it was left for us. I was always told growing up that
           mitch.farley@dnr.state.ohio.us    when you work hard and earn something; it means a whole lot more.
     WINTER 2006                                        R A CC OON CREE K NEW S                                          PAGE 3

(Continued from page 1)
The road to recovery has been a long and arduous task. The proc-
ess for designing an affective treatment strategy and securing                    URGENT ACTION NEEDED!
grant funding has taken nearly 8 years. All told the Raccoon
Creek partners have received $2.4 million dollars in grant fund-
ing from the Ohio EPA and the ODNR—Division of Mineral
Resource Management to address the environmental impact of             You can help restore Raccoon Creek
the Broken Aro Mine on Little Raccoon Creek. Due to the sheer
size of the project, the mine was divided into three different pro-   Since 1978, the Federal Abandoned Mine Land fund has pro-
jects referred to as Salem Road, Broken Aro east, and Lake Mil-       vided over $130 million dollars to help restore abandoned
ton.                                                                  mine lands in Ohio. These efforts have helped protect the pub-
The Salem Road project was funded through a grant submitted           lic’s safety, improved the environment, and helped stimulate
by the Vinton Soil & Water Conservation District in 2002. This        the local economy. The Raccoon Creek partners rely heavily
portion of the surface mine contains a large ridge of mine spoil      on the these funds to reclaim and treat abandoned coal mines.
and a number of open mine pits containing several million gal-        The continued acquisition of these funds may be in jeopardy
lons of water. Throughout the year water from the pit seeps into      unless Congress reauthorizes the Surface Mining Control and
the toxic mine spoil producing very concentrated acid mine            Reclamation Act (SMCRA).
drainage. The general treatment strategy is to keep water away
from the pile by contouring the land for positive drainage, cover-            Contact your Congressmen!
ing reactive mine spoil, and eliminating any water-filled pits.       Local citizens that benefit from the Federal AML Program
Streams running through the surface mine were lined with lime-        (which is to say, ALL OF US!) are encouraged to stay in-
stone and steel slag in order to neutralize any residual acid. Pro-   volved with developments as they occur over the next year. In
ject construction was completed in November 2005 by Stock-            addition, specific letters to Congressional representatives in the
meister Enterprises INC. of Jackson County.                           House and Senate will be extremely helpful. Such letters
                                                                      should address the specific benefits of this fund to address
The Broken Aro east and the Lake Milton Projects were funded
by grants submitted by the Institute for Local Government and         abandoned mine land issues. Additional resources for informa-
                                                                      tion on the Federal Abandoned Mine Land Fund is given be-
Rural Development (Ohio University) in 2003. The treatment
strategy for this area is more complex due to a large stream val-     low.
ley that was used to dispose of waste material. This headwater
                                                                      x    For House Members' phone numbers, call 202-224-3121
tributary to Flint Run was buried some 70 ft deep in coal refuse,
                                                                           or go to www.house.gov
which is mainly iron pyrite generated during the screening and
washing process. Ground water passing through this black refuse       x    For Senators' phone numbers, call 202-224-3121 or go to
creates an unbelievable amount sulfuric acid and heavy metals.             www.senate.gov
The focus of this project is to reduce acidity by rerouting water
away from the valley-fill and building several treatment cells to     x    Current information on Federal Abandoned Mine Land
generate alkalinity. The high alkaline water will co-mingle with           Fund, www.dnr.state.oh.us/mineral/abandoned/index.html
the valley-fill drainage, neutralizing any remaining acidity. The
alkaline treatment cells include two steel slag leach beds and a
vertical flow pond, which generate alkalinity through the use of
limestone or calcium oxide. The Broken Aro east project is being
                                                                                  Federal Clean Water Act
constructed Berridge Reclamation INC. of Jackson County. The
Lake Milton project is being constructed by Stockmeister Enter-        This publication is financed through a grant from the Ohio
prises INC. of Jackson County. Both projects should be complete         Environmental Protection Agency and the United States
and on-line by summer 2006.                                            Protection Agency, under the provisions of section 319 (h)
                                                                                         of the Clean Water Act.

                                                                       Try these web resources for more information on the Fed-
                                                                                        eral Clean Water Act:

                                                                      x    U.S. EPA— http://www.epa.gov/r5water/cwa.htm

                                                                      x    Ohio EPA— http://www.epa.state.oh.us/dsw/nps/index.html

                                                                      x    Clean Water Network— http://www.cwn.org/cwn/
         PAGE 4                                           R A CC OON CREE K NEW S                                      WINTER 2006

     Relief On The Way For
   Raccoon Creek Headwaters
By Brett Laverty
Vinton Soil & Water Conservation District

The Raccoon Creek Headwaters drains nearly 200 square miles in
portions of Athens, Hocking, and Vinton Counties. Coal mining
in this part of the watershed dates back more than 150 years,
which left behind thousands of aces of abandoned underground
and surface mines. Early accounts on the upper Raccoon Creek
depict the stream running as “black as ink” as waste material was
commonly flushed into the creek. Local resident Clyde Pinney
remembers his grandfather telling stories of the big fish in Rac-
coon Creek, but by the 1930’s the acid from the mines had im-
pacted the creek so much that all you could catch were a few
bluegills. A study by the Raccoon Creek Partners in 2000 identi-
fied three tributaries producing the majority of acid mine drain-
age in the headwaters region. These impacted streams include
Hewett Fork, East Branch, and Brushy Creek.                               Pierce Run Targeted As Next
                                    The Hewett Fork drainage area             Reclamation Project
                                    is largely polluted by aban-
                                    doned underground mines that         By Ben McCament
                                    were recently targeted for treat-    ILGARD—Ohio University
                                    ment. The Raccoon Creek Part-
                                    ners completed the Carbondale        The Pierce Run subwatershed was determined to be the largest
                                    Doser Project (see photo) in         source of acid mine drainage in the middle section of Raccoon
                                    2004. This automated dosing          Creek during a 2002 study. The Pierce Run watershed drains
                                    unit dispenses calcium oxide         13 square miles in southern Vinton County and enters Raccoon
                                    directly into the mine discharge     Creek near the town of Radcliff. The effect of Pierce Run on
                                    and is responsible for reducing      Raccoon Creek was first documented by Ohio EPA in 1995
                                    acidity by 200 tons each year.       where biological data showed a significant drop in both fish
                                    The most exciting result has         and macroinvertebrates (aquatic bugs) downstream of Pierce
                                    been the return of fish to           Run.
                                    Hewett Fork for the first time
                                    in nearly a century.                 Amy Hovart, a graduate student in the Environmental Studies
                                                                         program at Ohio University, received grant funding from
The Vinton Soil and Water Conservation District recently re-             ODNR—Division of Mineral Resource Management to con-
ceived $1.66 million dollars in grant funding from the Ohio EPA          duct research on Pierce Run until summer 2006. Her research
and ODNR-Division of Mineral Resource Management to ad-                  will focus on several underground coal mines that were aban-
dress acid mine drainage in the East Branch and Brushy Creek             doned some eighty years ago but still discharge acid mine
tributaries. These streams are largely impacted by abandoned             drainage. The goal of Ms. Hovart’s research is to monitor the
surface mines, which may be discharging an additional 500 tons           water quality from these deep mines on a monthly basis in or-
of acidity per year to the upper Raccoon Creek mainstem. The             der to determine the seasonal characteristics. We often find that
problem is related to how mining was conducted in the 1940’s             water quality in deep mines worsens as the winter and spring
through 1960’s. Many of the area ridges were removed and re-             rains infiltrate into the mine. This is sometimes referred to as
placed with a mix of blasted rock and toxic coal waste. Some of          the “spring flush”. This research will be used to design an ef-
the reactive waste material was dumped in neighboring stream             fective treatment strategy for the Pierce Run basin.
valleys. The result has been widespread contamination of most
streams in the area. The Raccoon Creek Partners are in the proc-          A project grant application was submitted to the Ohio EPA in
ess of designing an effective treatment strategy, a challenging          2005 but had to be withdrawn because of funding issues with
process due to the size of the project. The goal is to use steel slag,   the state’s Abandoned Mine Land Fund. However, the Raccoon
limestone, and traditional reclamation techniques to combat the          Creek Partners will continue to work towards securing funding
acidity and heavy metals. Construction on the treatment projects         necessary to reduce or eliminate the negative water quality
should be complete by Fall 2007.                                         effects of Pierce Run on Raccoon Creek.
     WINTER 2006                                         R A CC OON CREE K NEW S                                      PAGE 5

   Remembering The Swimming
     Holes Of Raccoon Creek
By Jeff Henry
Friend of Raccoon Creek

One of the things I like about Raccoon Creek are the many
places to swim. Each swimming hole has something different
in the way of bridges, trees with swings, and the people who
frequent that particular location. The names of these swimming
holes often reflect a local family or characteristic common to
that area.

One such place is Ponn’s bridge near the town of Wilkesville
in Vinton County. This historic covered bridge is a great place
to jump into the cool waters of Raccoon Creek as it meanders
to the Ohio River. The actual bridge is neat because of its
wooden beams and hump-back character. In the past, some of
the side boards were missing and you could jump to the creek
some 20 feet below. At the lower end of the swimming area, a
dam made up of rocks served to make the actual hole deeper
while the bank and the edges of the stream are sandy as a
beach. People from the creek area [watershed was an unused
word at that time] liked to gather to talk about the latest news. I
remember catching some nice bass when we last fished there
five years ago.
There were other places to swim, old mine pits commonly re-
ferred to as the ‘Strip Mine’ near the City of Wellston. Many of
the “old works” or collapsed underground mines could range in
color from deep blue to orange. One such place Blue Hole
was located behind the present day Wellston High School. I
was discouraged from swimming there based on the rational
that, in theory, when the local water table would drop the wa-
ter could suddenly drain like a bathtub into the mine thus tak-
ing us with it. All of the kids really liked swimming in the Blue
Hole because we could ride our bicycles to it and the acidic
terrain made for less vegetation and more bike trails.
Nearby Lake Alma, in the early 1970’s, we would catch fish
downstream from the Wellston waterworks at the dam on Little
Raccoon Creek. We would head home with stringers of sunfish
and catfish swinging from our bicycles. Just downstream of the
waterworks you could swim in Little Raccoon Creek at a place
referred to as “the Rocks”.
There is another place near Bolin Mills in Vinton County that
                                                                                   Historic Cora Mill
we called Beckley Bridge. It had a rope swing off of a tree
along the bank with a platform about 45 feet off the water. It
was a tricky climb up into the tree and you were really moving
as you hit the water. This particular area was popular with Ohio
University students due to the proximity to Athens. One day as
we were swimming, a man came by with a camera and said he
worked for a tourist magazine. I can still see everyone standing
                                                                        Cora mill is located at the falls of Raccoon Creek in Gal-
on that bridge while we had our picture taken.                          lia County. The gristmill was built in 1845 by the family
                                                                        of Helen Lewis. Helen graciously shared a few historical
We would like to thank Jeff for sharing these wonderful and             photos of the mill area depicting a century of life along
historic stories of Raccoon Creek. Please contact us if you             Raccoon Creek.
have any stories or fond memories of Raccoon Creek.
        PAGE 6                                          R A CC OON CREE K NEW S                                       WINTER 2006

                                                                   Raccoon Creek Water Trail Association

                                    Wendy Shields

I am really excited to be here in Vinton County as the new
public outreach coordinator for the Raccoon Creek Water-
shed Project. This is a new position for the watershed group,     By Wendy Shields
created in hopes of including YOU in the future of Raccoon        Vinton Soil & Water Conservation District
Creek. Our project, designed to work towards conservation,
restoration, and stewardship of the watershed, seeks to im-       A new citizen-based group has formed in the watershed and made
prove both the health of the stream and of our watershed          increasing public access to Raccoon Creek its top priority. The
community. As such, I have really hit the ground running in       group began meeting in December 2005 to discuss the possibility of
my first two months, developing community programs that           installing public access points for boaters canoes and kayaks
educate and inspire local communities about the wonderful         along the creek. The sport of paddling is a popular recreational ac-
                                                                  tivity that often generates opportunities for local tourism and is also
resource we have in Raccoon Creek.
                                                                  a low impact way of experiencing the natural wonders along Rac-
This year we are planning several events that will give every-    coon Creek.
one an opportunity not only to come out and see what’s been
going on in the watershed, but to become involved in our          The mission of the Raccoon Creek Water Trail Association
activities, and to suggest others you might like to see in the    (RCWTA) is to encourage stewardship, environmentally responsi-
future. A few things lined up so far this year include our an-    ble recreation, and economic and scenic opportunities in the Rac-
nual canoe floats, stream and litter clean-ups, tree plantings,   coon Creek Watershed. They
volunteer monitoring, and school programs. In addition, we        seek to promote natural and
are working with the Athens County Soil and Water Conser-         cultural resources through pub-
vation District to be included in their county conservation       lic access and education. The
tour. This tour will highlight the Carbondale doser project,      group is also exploring the pos-
one of our successful AMD treatment sites. Read throughout        sibility of having Raccoon
this newsletter to get more details on each of these upcoming     Creek become designated as a
events. In the meantime, if you have questions, thoughts or       water trail by the Ohio Depart-
suggestions, please contact me!                                   ment of Natural Resources.
                                                                  This extensive process involves
       Thanks To Our Sponsors                                     inventorying the entire length
                                                                  of Raccoon Creek to mark sites
                                                                  of cultural, natural or historical significance. It also requires wide-
  The success of our public outreach program                      ranging outreach activities to make sure everyone interested is in-
      is due the generous giving of many                          volved in the process.
                local businesses                                  The water trails group is currently looking into the possibility of
                                                                  funding the project through grants made available through
   The Flower Basket, 111 E. 1st Street, Wellston                 ODNR—Division of Watercraft. So far, several locations have been
                                                                  identified for potential access points. The next step will be to con-
   Kards ‘N Keepsakes, 15 S. Ohio Ave. Wellston                   tact creek-front landowners in order to gauge favorability or opposi-
          The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium                           tion to the water trails concept. A water trail section bordering Zale-
                                                                  ski State Forest is also in the works as the group negotiates with
                                                                  state officials. Lake Hope has also expressed interest in installing a
                                                                  boat access downstream of the dam. The Raccoon Creek Water
                                                                  Trail Association meetings and activities are free and open to the
                                                                  public. Those that participate with the project are facing months of
                                                                  paddling, laughter, and fun!
WINTER 2006                                   R A CC OON CREE K NEW S                             PAGE 7

                                    Coming to a
                                      near you!

                                       Help protect Raccoon Creek Today!

                        March 18th: Stream Clean-up 9-3pm
Meet at the Vinton Soil and Water Conservation Office at 9:00am. Free lunch at Lake Alma after
                                        the clean-up

           April 1st: 14th Annual Zaleski State Forest Clean-up
                                8-1pm, Free lunch and awards afterwards!

April 22nd (Earth Day!): Athens County Conservation Tour Join us for the Athens
     County Conservation Tour, guided tours of the Carbondale Reclamation site from 1-5pm

                 May 6th: Zaleski Canoe Float! Free and lots of fun!
              Float a 4 mile section of the Zaleski State Forest. Meet at the Hope School

May 20th: Gallia County Canoe Float                          Meet at the Raccoon County Park at 9:00 am.

     6th Annual Raccoon Creek                                Annual Public Watershed Meetings
           Canoe Float!
                                                             March 7th Gallia County, Rio Grande Univer-
                                                             sity. Woods Hall 7:00pm
                                                             March 21st Athens County, Wells Public Li-
                                                             brary, Albany. 7:00pm
                                                             April 4th     Vinton County, Wilkesville Com-
                                                             munity Center. 7:00pm
 Everyone Welcome!! Meet at the Hope School near Lake
Hope on Saturday May 6th. A free safety and paddling dem-    April 18th    Jackson County. Wellston Public
 onstration will begin at 11:00am. A shuttle will run from   Library. 7:00pm
   noon to 5:00 PM. Canoes available free of charge.
                         Printed on 100% unbleached, post-consumer recycled paper with soy ink

                                                                                                                                  Flathead Catfish
                                                                    send To:

   Permit No. 1
  McArthur, Ohio                                        McArthur, Ohio 45651
      PAID                                              31935 State Route 93
  U.S. Postage
    Bulk Rate                  Raccoon Creek Watershed Project

       Fish Spotlight

    Flathead Catfish
The flathead catfish often referred to as shovelhead cat in this part of the state is among the largest fish indigenous to the Ohio
River as well as lower Raccoon Creek. They range from the lower Great Lakes region all the way to northern Mexico. This species
of fish differs from all other Ohio catfish in that it has a flattened head between the eyes and a longer lower jaw. Flathead catfish
prefer sluggish, deep pools in long sections of stream, and typically feed at night. They are benthic feeders, meaning that they prefer
the bottom of a water body, and are considered voracious carnivores, feeding mainly on other fish. Flathead catfish spawn when
water temperatures reach 70o F and build nests along undercut banks or near large woody debris. The golden-yellow egg mass may
contain as many as 100,000 eggs. These monsters of the deep can grow to between 14” to 45” and can weigh up to 45 lbs. The larg-
est specimen ever recorded in the state weighed 82 lbs (53’’) and was caught in the Ohio River near Adams County (1930).
Catfish are highly regarded by anglers for many reasons. Aside from making a tasty meal (they are considered the tastiest of catfish)
cat-fishing is a popular pastime for sport fishers. These fish are frequently found near submerged wood cover, such as logs and tree
roots. Anglers typically fish on the bottom using heavy tackle with live or freshly cut fish such shiners or chubs but some swear by
beef or turkey livers. Although the flathead isn’t as numerous as other species of catfish, the frequent large size of the fish makes it
worthwhile for many fishermen and women.

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