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Friends of Cheat looks to remove unused dam

KINGWOOD — Removing the Albright Power Station Dam would reconnect the Cheat River from Parsons to Cheat Lake — almost 75 miles.

Friends of Cheat, a Preston County nonprofit that has worked to restore and protect the Cheat River watershed for 28 years, is working toward the removal of the dam, which no longer fulfills its original purpose, said Madison Ball, restoration program manager at FOC.

Ball briefed the Preston County Commission on the project at its Nov. 9 meeting and requested $60,000, or about a third of the cost, for a feasibility and 30% design study from the county’s American Recovery Plan Act funds. An additional $400,000 toward construction, administration, and personnel for the project has already been secured.

The study will be thorough, critical, and look at all options including not removing the dam, which is more than 70 years old, Ball said. According to a handout, it will look at the ecological, environmental, social and recreational effects of each option.

“We really want to make sure we’re doing our due diligence with this phase and make sure that it has a very strong foundation before moving on to other phases of the project,” she said. 

The dam was built to feed cooling towers at the Albright Power Station, which closed in 2012, according to a pamphlet on the project prepared by FOC. First Energy has rejected the idea of converting the plant to natural gas. 

The dam has visible wear and noticeable damage, which is a cause for concern, according to the project pamphlet. Ball said the dam does not provide flood control or mitigation and could exacerbate the issue in an extreme event. 

The dam’s current is also a danger to boaters who cannot safely travel that section of the Cheat River, the pamphlet states. Portage, the act of carrying boats over land around a water obstacle,  is difficult because of steep riprap banks and makes planning trips and recreation challenging.

The Cheat River flows freely for almost 46 miles from its head where the Shavers Fork and Black Fork merge to the Albright Power Dam. 

“From Parsons to Rowlesburg, the Cheat River is considered a travel destination for family-friendly, flat water floating, and from Rowlesburg to Cheat Lake the Cheat River is a world-class whitewater destination and draws in travelers from far and wide,” the pamphlet states.

With the removal of the dam, the Cheat River would freely flow from Parsons to Cheat Lake — about 75 river miles.

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