Three Fork Creek Watershed Restoration Project
Three Fork Creek is situated in West Virginia’s Preston and Taylor counties, with a drainage area of 103 square
miles (Map 1). The headwaters are predominantly located in Preston County, with minor contributing tributaries
originating in Monongalia and Taylor counties at elevations exceeding 2,200 feet. The mainstem is located in both
Preston (7.5 miles) and Taylor (11 miles) counties, formed by the confluence of Birds Creek, Squires Creek, and
Fields Creek in western Preston County. The stream then flows southwest before emptying into the Tygart Valley
River (in the Monongahela River basin) in the city of Grafton, Taylor County, at an elevation of 1,000 feet. The
chief tributaries of Three Fork Creek are Birds Creek (consisting of the North and South Fork), Fields Creek, Raccoon Creek, Squires Creek, and Laurel Run.
With the exception of Laurel Run and Fields Creek, acid mine drainage (AMD) generated from extensive
pre-SMCRA underground mining had degraded the chief tributaries of Three Fork Creek. As a result, the entire
length of the Three Fork Creek mainstem was mostly devoid of aquatic life. The effects of AMD impairment
extended from Three Fork Creek downstream into the Tygart Valley River. In 2004 the West Virginia Division
of Natural Resources (WVDNR) determined that Three Fork Creek was the second highest contributor of AMD
in the Monongahela River basin. When localized rain storms occurred in the Three Fork Creek watershed during
low flow conditions, acid slugs were pushed downstream, sometimes causing fish kills in the Tygart Valley River.
High concentrations of acid and iron carried by Three Fork Creek from abandoned coal mines created a plume in
the river through the town of Grafton.
Three Fork Creek flows into the Tygart Valley River at Grafton, approximately 2.25 miles downstream of
Tygart Lake, a 1,750-acre reservoir managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE). Both the lake and
the lake tailwaters are used extensively for boating and fishing. Additional recreational facilities in the vicinity
of Tygart Lake include Tygart Lake State Park and Grafton City Park (located immediately below Tygart Lake
Dam and includes a boat launch). Each attraction draws recreational users to the vicinity, providing a boost to the
economy of Grafton, as well as providing high visibility of the confluence of Three Fork Creek with the Tygart
Valley River to those passing by. WVDNR regularly stocks trout in the tailwater section, and stocks various other
fish species in the lake and tailwater section.
In addition to the information detailed below, the high visibility, impact to aquatic life, recreation, and local economy, and increased loadings for water treatment facilities downstream made Three Fork Creek a prime candidate for
restoration by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Abandoned Mine Lands (AML).
Project Start: July 19, 2010
Project Complete: April 15, 2011
Construction Cost: $750,491.15
Contractor: Breakaway, Inc.