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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

West Virginia


Certification Program for Timber Harvesters -
Changes in West Virginia's Approach to Logging Sediments

In 1992, West Virginia enacted dramatic changes to its Nonpoint Source Silviculture Water Quality Program by passing the Logging Sediment Control Act. This Act incorporated several provisions designed to protect the environment and to ensure that all logging operations are registered with the state's tax department and in compliance with all other rules, regulations, and laws of the state. Each logging operation must pay severance taxes, worker's compensation fees, and personal income taxes.

The law provides that after September 1, 1992, anyone conducting a logging operation, buying timber, or buying logs for resale is required to be licensed with the Division of Forestry. Acceptance of the license implies that the operator will protect the environment through the judicious use of silviculture best management practices (BMPs). Improperly planned and constructed logging roads and landings can cause soil erosion and sedimentation. Sedimentation can clog stream channels, contribute to streambank and channel erosion, damage the habitat of fish and aquatic life, adversely affect water supplies, and reduce values. Some recommended BMPs are

  • maintaining filter strips,
  • limiting grade on haul and skid roads,
  • erosion control seeding, and
  • water control measures such as culverts and broad-based dips.

The second main provision of the law requires the certification of loggers. The requirements for certification are the satisfactory completion of courses in tree felling safety, personal safety equipment, first aid, and silviculture BMPs. Since July 1, 1993, each logging crew must be supervised by a certified logger.

The Act includes a third provision: loggers must submit a logging notification form within three days of starting a new harvesting operation. The site must also be posted with a sign listing the logger's name and license number. Failure to comply with any of these provisions, which have also been amplified by new regulations, can lead to suspended or revoked licenses.

An appointed committee will meet every three years to review BMPs, modify them, or suggest new ones as needed. Current BMPs have been adopted from those already found in the Nonpoint Source Silviculture Management Plan.

CONTACT: James Warren
West Virginia Division of Forestry
(304) 558-2788

Potomac Headwaters Water Quality Project -
Poultry Production and the Environment

Increases in poultry production in the early 1990s served as the catalyst for the West Virginia Soil Conservation Agency and the Division of Environmental Protection to consider using its section 319 program to provide technical and educational assistance to the agricultural community in the Potomac Valley.

Early interventions

Recognizing the potential for increased water quality problems associated with the poultry industry in neighboring states, the West Virginia Soil Conservation Partnership, consisting of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), West Virginia Soil Conservation Agency, and the Potomac Valley Soil Conservation District, in cooperation with the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection, developed proposals for section 319 funding to address these issues.

Section 319 funding currently supports staff: one nonpoint source environmental specialist and one nonpoint source resource management specialist in the region. These specialists work closely with farmers; federal, state, and local government agencies; and private groups such as the West Virginia Poultry Water Quality Advisory Committee. They educate residents and farmers on nonpoint source water quality issues and best management practices (BMPs) such as nutrient and pesticide management, sediment and erosion control, and proper animal waste handling and storage.

The Partnership's initial efforts led to the implementation of numerous best management practices, including 85 litter sheds, 139 dead-bird composters, 72 nutrient management plans, the incorporation of sediment and erosion control planning in poultry house construction, alternative uses for poultry litter, and educational efforts to reduce nutrient and pesticide contamination of surface and groundwater resources in the project area. Concentrated educational efforts included 16 poultry nutrient management and waste management seminars that attracted nearly 400 participants in the last two years. These meetings included 11 grower meetings and 5 meetings promoting the use of litter outside the Potomac drainage area. Training and information services are also provided to local and state agencies, civic organizations, livestock groups, and schools to increase public understanding of various nonpoint programs and water quality issues.

The Headwaters Project

In 1992, a Memorandum of Agreement was developed between the West Virginia Soil Conservation Agency, West Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, USDA Farm Service Agency, NRCS, and the Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Valley Soil Conservation District.

This agreement provides for accelerated federal, state, and local educational, technical, and financial assistance to reduce and prevent water quality impairments arising from agricultural and urban lands. The project covers the eastern panhandle counties in West Virginia that drain into the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. It is identified as the Potomac Headwaters Water Quality Project.

Local demonstrations focused on the agricultural use of compost as a fertility amendment for vegetation.

In late 1993, the original coalition of federal, state, and local agencies was expanded to include the West Virginia University College of Agriculture and USDA's Rural Development program.

Through an accelerated cost-share program under the Small Watershed Act (Pub.Law 78- 534), this project will provide up to 60 percent of the cost for accelerated nutrient management plans, agricultural waste storage structures, dead-bird composters, livestock confinement areas, and riparian area development. To complement the NRCS cost-share, the West Virginia Soil Conservation Agency has initiated the use of the State Revolving Loan Fund to provide low-interest loans to producers who install BMPs in the Potomac Valley District.

Demonstration projects

Since its inception, the Potomac Headwaters Water Quality Project has garnered significant support in the form of legislative appropriations and individual agency budget allocations on both the state and federal levels.

Numerous demonstration projects have illustrated how to properly manage agricultural resources to prevent impacts on surface and groundwater quality. These demonstrations include rotational grazing, nutrient management, livestock confinement areas, riparian zone development, composting, and a pesticide collection field day. The latter resulted in the removal of more than 20 tons of outdated or unused pesticides from the area.


Among the various demonstration projects, the composting project is one that seems to have captured the imagination and interest of many industry analysts and environmentalists. The benefits of on-farm manure composting include soil conditioning, development of a marketable product, improved handling measures, better land application, reduced pollution risk, and the destruction of disease-causing organisms (pathogens).

This project stimulated the private sector's interest in whether and how to develop larger- scale litter composting systems for economic and water quality benefits. It also provides opportunities for local producers to install a regional composting operation that can produce a salable product and increase farm profits.

Demonstration activities included the use of the composted product by local landscapers, nurseries, athletic fields, and golf courses. Local demonstrations focused on the agricultural use of compost as a fertility amendment for vegetation. Compost may be used in flood control projects a possible additional market in the Potomac Valley. Its use on crop and forage production and as an ingredient in low-value lumber processing, perhaps with sawdust and bark, is also being tested.

Not only composting, but also the other demonstration projects serve as a local educational resource for agriculture producers, industry, and others. They help identify alternative markets for litter, proper confined animal siting arrangements and site layout, nutrient and waste management plans, and animal waste storage facilities, along with odor and fly control for poultry operations.

The Potomac Headwaters Water Quality Project is possible only as a result of efforts over the last five years during which the EPA continuously and diligently supported West Virginia's nonpoint source and section 319 programs.

CONTACT: Theresa Byler
West Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Agency
(304) 558-2204


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