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MUB Board gets update on ‘the project behind the project’

MORGANTOWN — There’s been a whole lot of talk in recent years about the Flegal Dam and Reservoir. 

And rightfully so. 

The Morgantown Utility Board’s newest asset is an engineering marvel — a half-million cubic yards of clay rich soil painstakingly compacted into an earthen dam capable of holding back a 370-million-gallon, 50-acre lake. 

It’ll not only provide a secondary 30-day water supply should MUB ever need it, but the 125-acre site will be the backdrop for a variety of recreational pursuits for generations to come.

But it was a far less glamorous project in Preston County — “the project behind the project,” as Senior Engineer Ken Hacker calls it — that helped make it all possible. 

Hacker explained that in order for MUB to get clearance to disturb and remove portions of Cobun Creek for the Flegal project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers required offsite mitigation. 

They found it near the Pennsylvania line in Preston County, where an unpermitted dam built on private land in the early 1970s made a mess of Fike Run in order to create what became known as Appalachian Lake. 

By the time the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection put MUB in contact with the property owners, the dam was on the verge of collapse and the landowners were on the line for some serious liability.  

Through two contracts totaling about $1.6 million, MUB’s contractors drained the 17-million-gallon lake, tore down the dam and restored nearly 5,000 feet of Fike Run using a stream along similar topography in Canaan Valley as a template. 

Hacker said the project created or restored some 55 unnamed tributaries along the stream as well as the natural wetlands in that low-lying area. More than 100 in-stream structures were installed, and thousands of trees and shrubs were planted over the 14-acre site. 

The entire area is now under a permanent conservation easement. 

MUB is in year two of a 10-year post construction monitoring period required by the Army Corps. Hacker said he believes the project will hit the necessary environmental benchmarks by year five. 

“We helped out the family, removed the liability of the dam and reclaimed Fike Run stream to what it was,” he explained during Tuesday’s meeting of the MUB Board of Directors. “All around, a win for everybody.”  

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a $300 holiday bonus for every full-time MUB employee. 

Chairperson Barbara Parsons said the recognition is well-earned, noting, “We’ve made some progress in a whole lot of areas. We’ve had a lot of projects and challenges, but everyone has risen to the occasion.”