Hydromorphological Characterization of the Piney Creek Watershed of Raleigh County, West Virginia, a Tributary of the New River Gorge National Park
Keywords:watershed, habitat, stormwater, pollution, hydromorphological, hydromorphology
In this investigation information was collected regarding the habitat condition, channel profile, and stream discharge of key waterways within the Piney Creek Watershed in vicinity of Beckley, Raleigh County, West Virginia. Piney Creek is a major tributary that flows into the New River within the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. To establish robust and sustainable ongoing stream monitoring, West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech), Beckley Sanitary Board (BSB) and Piney Creek Watershed Association (PCWA) partnered in conducting stream habitat assessments at key sites within the watershed utilizing the guidelines provided by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Save Our Streams initiative. Additionally, the organizations developed standard operating procedures for calculating flow and discharge utilizing low-cost, easy-to-perform float gauging methodology. In total, 21 sites from five named streams (Beaver Creek, Cranberry Creek, Little Whitestick Creek, Whitestick Creek, and Piney Creek) and seven unnamed streams were selected and assessed for channel width and depth, velocity, discharge, sediment deposition, embeddedness, bank stability, riparian buffer, and stream bed composition. Streambed composition and discharge showed variability among the subwatershed sites. Nine site habitat scores received overall habitat scores of “suboptimal”, while ten were scored as “marginal” and two as “poor” stream habitat. Lack of riparian buffer was found to be the most frequent habitat score deficiency in the Piney Creek Watershed, with 18 out of the 42 total stream banks receiving a score of “poor” in this category. Characterization of the watershed is important for establishing baseline information as well as identifying important sites for future research and execution of improvement projects. This study defines an area that could serve as an accessible research resource and model watershed.
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