BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University’s New River Light and Power (NRLP) is the awardee of $1 million in grant funding from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), which will be used to complete an environmental restoration on the Middle Fork New River. This restoration will take place at the site of the decommissioned Payne Branch hydroelectric dam, located just east of Boone at Payne Branch Park in Blowing Rock.
To complete these restoration efforts, NRLP is partnering with CWMTF and the Resource Institute Inc., with an expected project completion date of fall 2020.
NRLP Engineering Supervisor Matthew Makdad, P.E., the grant recipient, and NRLP General Manager Edmond Miller, P.E., have collaborated on the project, for which the university is also honoring a $200,000 matching funds commitment.
“With our collaborative efforts, we are eager to restore this section of the New River to its natural habitat, address erosion and wetland habitats, and create a location for use and enjoyment by the community,” Makdad said.
The Payne Branch dam was used from 1924–72 as a power source for the NRLP service area, according to Makdad.
“The watershed upstream of the site has been impacted by development, pasture grazing and highway expansion,” he explained. “This, plus the remaining dam structure, has subsequently resulted in increased stormwater, sediment loading from erosion and higher surface water temperatures that all impact the water quality in this habitat.”
As part of the upcoming project, remnants of the dam will be removed, restoring approximately 1,200 linear feet of the river and adjacent wetland areas, Makdad said.
Specific work to the site will include the following:
- significant sediment removal;
- reconnection to existing floodplain;
- new channel construction;
- creation or enhancement of floodplain wetlands or ponds;
- riparian buffer and stream bank plantings; and
- removal of invasive species.
Once the restoration is completed, “significant improvements to this native trout stream will be realized,” Makdad said, “as well as a more scenic environment for future extension of the Greenway Trail between Boone and Blowing Rock.”
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About Appalachian’s New River Light and Power
For more than 100 years, Appalachian State University’s New River Light and Power (NRLP) — a nonprofit electric utility operated by the Division of Business Affairs — has provided power to Western North Carolina residents. Today, NRLP serves nearly 8,500 residential and commercial customers who reside in and near the town of Boone. In January 2022, the utility will begin purchasing its electricity from Carolina Power Partners — a partnership that opens greater renewable energy opportunities. In partnership with Appalachian’s Office of Sustainability, Facilities Operations and Renewable Energy Initiative, NRLP has assisted with various energy efficiency projects across campus, including installing solar panels and providing funding for the Broyhill Wind Turbine located on Bodenheimer Drive. The utility holds the American Public Power Association’s highest Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) designation for providing reliable and safe electric service, and approximately $650,000 of its budget is reserved annually for contributions to Appalachian’s general scholarship fund. Learn more at https://nrlp.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.