Cooperatove Conservation Project

North Fork Potomac Watershed

Control Nutrient Runoff

Location: Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic Region: West Virginia

Project Summary: Landowners, environmentalists, universities, and government agencies worked together to restore Potomac River water quality by reducing polluted runoff from beef and poultry farms.
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Roofed feeding area and manure storage facility.
Resource Challenge
Between 1993 and 1996, the region’s number of beef and poultry farms doubled.  Following common practice, farmers stored poultry litter and animal manure or applied it to their soils as fertilizer, but  crops could not absorb the excess nutrients.  Runoff from rain and snow melt carried the excess manure into streams, where it fed algae blooms and raised the level of fecal coliform bacteria.  By 1996, algae blooms and bacterial levels were unacceptably high; West Virginia  Department of Environmental Protection officials identified several streams of the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River  watershed as impaired.  A Total Maximum Daily Load was developed  for the North Branch in 1998 to set reductions in fecal coliform.
Examples of Key Partners
Farmers and Landowners, North Fork Watershed Association, Potomac Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development  Council, Potomac Valley Conservation District, Trout Unlimited,  West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and  Department of Agriculture, USDA Natural Resources Conservation  Service (NRCS), United States Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA), United States Geological Survey (USGS), and others.
Results and Accomplishments
Farmers and other landowners, environmental organizations, universities and government agencies worked together to implement best management practices (BMPs) and improve water quality.  Because of the extensive partnerships developed to implement BMPs and to address complex water quality challenges, the stream no longer exceeds listing criteria for impaired or polluted surface waters in West Virginia.
In 1998, the NRCS began working with the North Fork Watershed Association, a local citizen’s group concerned about recurring  flooding.  A watershed management plan was developed which recommended practices to lessen flood damage and improve water quality. The group also developed and proposed an Environmental Quality Incentives Program to put sections of the plan into action, which they later implemented as a 319 non-point source watershed  project.
The project coordinator does public outreach and coordinates meetings between landowners and the North Fork Watershed Association and its many partners.
A range of BMPs have been established to control runoff from feedlots and eliminate or reduce cattle access to the streams, including:
  • Fencing along stream.
  • Relocating feedlots away from streams.
  • Stabilizing feeding areas and cattle access areas.
  • Constructing roofs over feeding areas.
  • Planting vegetation along stream banks.
  • Constructing animal waste storage facilities.
  • Establishing riparian buffers.
  • Stabilizing critically eroding areas.
  • Developing alternative livestock watering facilities.
  • Implementing rotational grazing systems.
  • Constructing poultry litter storage sheds, and composting facilities for waste and for dead chickens.

Extensive partnerships were the key to successfully implementing agricultural management practices that improved water quality.

Project Contact
John Wagoner
Potomac Valley Construction District



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