OSMRE / VISTA Team Projects
Clinch River Valley Initiative
OSMRE / VISTA: Margaret Siddle
Supervisor: Carol Doss
Address: PO Box 2359, Abingdon, Virginia 24212-2359
County: Wise, Scott, Tazewell, Russell
Voice Telephone: 276-679-1691
Web site: www.clinchriverva.com
Congressional District: 9th
Bureau: Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE)
The Clinch River Valley Initiative (CRVI) is a pioneering effort to build local economies in the coalfields of Southwest Virginia, focusing on the Clinch River – one of the most bio-diverse river systems in North America. Working at a watershed scale with several local partners, this collaborative grassroots effort developed significant momentum with applicability for communities in Appalachia and beyond. CRVI’s mission is to connect downtown revitalization, outdoor recreation, water quality, entrepreneurship, and environmental education along the Clinch River.
About the Surrounding Community
The Clinch River Valley Initiative encompasses Wise, Scott, Tazewell, and Russell Counties in Virginia. The Clinch Valley is largely rural and sparsely populated. Unsound land use practices degraded the quality of the region’s waterways and virtually anything, including acid mine drainage, released in the valley flows downhill into the streams and rivers. Among the greatest threats to the valley’s water are heavy metals leaching from abandoned coal mines. In addition to environmental degradation, 27.57% of residents served by the Clinch River Valley Initiative live below the national poverty level and the average per capita income is 42.94% below the national average. Additionally, 28.8% of these residents who are 25 years of age or older do not hold a high school degree and only 10.5% hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 14.6% and 28.2% for the nation respectively.
The OSMRE/VISTA assists the Clinch River Valley Initiative (CRVI) in fostering environmental stewardship by researching watershed concerns, facilitating water quality monitoring, and developing strategic watershed-based planning critical to future funding and project development and implementation. The OSMRE/VISTA promotes environmental stewardship by partnering with Keep Southwest Virginia Beautiful, Clean Virginia Waterways, and other organizations to clean-up and eradicate illegal dump sites along the river, initiate an annual litter-removal day, and organize annual household hazardous waste collection events. In addition, the project is developing a network of Save-Our-Streams-certified stream monitors in the Clinch River Valley and neighboring watersheds. The OSMRE/VISTA assists CRVI in community revitalization through projects that increase awareness and understanding of local history and culture by gathering stories about the history of the Clinch River watershed and its cultural significance to incorporate in educational materials. The OSMRE/VISTA is developing a plan for partners and schools to utilize new education tools such as the EnviroScapes®, a series of portable hands-on models that demonstrate the sources and prevention of water pollution through visual and hands-on interaction.