App State’s NRLP Awarded $1M for Environmental Restoration on Middle Fork New River

This aerial photo displays the section along Payne Branch Road in Blowing Rock where the stream will be restored. The decommissioned Payne Branch hydroelectric dam, visible in the upper left corner, will be removed as part of the restoration efforts. Photo submitted

This aerial photo displays the section along Payne Branch Road in Blowing Rock where the stream will be restored. The decommissioned Payne Branch hydroelectric dam, visible in the upper left corner, will be removed as part of the restoration efforts. Photo submitted

BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University’s New River Light and Power (NRLP) is the awardee of $1 million in grant funding from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), which will be used to complete an environmental restoration on the Middle Fork New River. This restoration will take place at the site of the decommissioned Payne Branch hydroelectric dam, located just east of Boone at Payne Branch Park in Blowing Rock.

To complete these restoration efforts, NRLP is partnering with CWMTF and the Resource Institute Inc., with an expected project completion date of fall 2020.

NRLP Engineering Supervisor Matthew Makdad, P.E., the grant recipient, and NRLP General Manager Edmond Miller, P.E., have collaborated on the project, for which the university is also honoring a $200,000 matching funds commitment.

“With our collaborative efforts, we are eager to restore this section of the New River to its natural habitat, address erosion and wetland habitats, and create a location for use and enjoyment by the community,” Makdad said.

The Payne Branch dam was used from 1924–72 as a power source for the NRLP service area, according to Makdad.

“The watershed upstream of the site has been impacted by development, pasture grazing and highway expansion,” he explained. “This, plus the remaining dam structure, has subsequently resulted in increased stormwater, sediment loading from erosion and higher surface water temperatures that all impact the water quality in this habitat.”

As part of the upcoming project, remnants of the dam will be removed, restoring approximately 1,200 linear feet of the river and adjacent wetland areas, Makdad said.

Specific work to the site will include the following:

  • significant sediment removal;

  • reconnection to existing floodplain;

  • new channel construction;

  • creation or enhancement of floodplain wetlands or ponds;

  • riparian buffer and stream bank plantings; and

  • removal of invasive species.

Once the restoration is completed, “significant improvements to this native trout stream will be realized,” Makdad said, “as well as a more scenic environment for future extension of the Greenway Trail between Boone and Blowing Rock.”

Jessica Stump, Appalachian State Today, August 28
original article at https://today.appstate.edu/2019/08/29/nrlp