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Project breathes new life into Buffalo Creek

MAN, W.Va. (AP) - The site of a 1972 disaster along Logan County's Buffalo Creek is having new life breathed into it.

Buffalo Creek is rapidly becoming one of southern West Virginia's most popular trout streams.

This week marks the 42nd anniversary of the collapse of an earthen dam along Buffalo Creek after heavy rain. It unleashed a flood that killed 125 people, injured 1,100 and left about 4,000 homeless.

The Charleston Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/MAP6xA) that a $750,000 stream-restoration project and other ongoing efforts have transformed the creek into a place where trout can thrive and anglers can fish.

"The change has been pretty dramatic," said Perry Harvey, president of the Buffalo Creek Watershed Association. "For nearly 40 years after the flood, the creek had nothing going for it. Nothing grew in it, and it was littered with trash and debris."

Over the past two years, work crews overseen by Appalachian Stream Restorations have constructed 192 structures designed to slow the stream's flow, create a deeper and narrower channel, and provide hiding places for fish and other aquatic creatures. A grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection paid for most of the work and a local mining outfit donated all the rock needed for the project.

The restoration efforts have been enough to impress state fisheries officials, who this year increased Buffalo Creek's allotment of trout from 350 pounds a month to 525.

"It's incredible what they've done," said Mike Shingleton, the Division of Natural Resources' assistant chief in charge of the state's trout program. "They've taken a stream that didn't have a lot of cover in it and have transformed it into a stream with a lot of cover, a lot of habitat. Those deeper pools will allow trout to survive a lot longer into the summertime."

Fishermen are noticing, too.

"During stockings, it's like a traffic jam in here," Harvey said. "Last year, the folks at Uncle Sam's Loans in Man sold 1,500 trout stamps. That's a huge number for this part of the state."

Work is under way now to secure funding for restoration along the stretch of stream between Stowe and Lorado. That effort is expected to cost an additional $350,000.


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