Innovative Economic Development
Regional Trail Network Development
Brownfields Redevelopment in Thomas, West Virginia
Tomlinson Run Stream Restoration
Source Water Protection and Planning
An Economic Restructuring Plan for the Town of Richlands, Virginia (2023)
Downstream Strategies completed this Economic Restructuring Plan to complement design recommendations included in the Town of Richlands’ Business District Revitalization Plan. The Economic Restructuring Plan objectively evaluates the current economic climate in Richlands, explores local market data on the surrounding area, and outlines strategies that will help Richlands and its downtown create a stronger business environment, target new investment, and position itself as a destination within the greater region.
Charging West Virginians: How utility and Public Service Commission actions continue to increase electricity bills (2023)
West Virginia’s electricity rates more than doubled between 2005 and 2022, outpacing the increases in all five surrounding states and in every other state in the country. In this report, Downstream Strategies assesses the factors contributing to this steep rise in residential electricity costs, including (1) regulators and utilities doubling down on aging coal-fired power plants, (2) record-high cost recovery cases filed by utilities, (3) non-competitive resource procurement practices employed by utilities, and (4) a lack of energy efficiency programs available for consumers to take control of their electricity consumption.
National to Neighborhoods: Catalyzing Opportunities for Coal-Impacted Communities (2023)
This fourth report from the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition outlines innovative projects that would transform abandoned coal mine lands in West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and beyond into sites of sustainable community and economic development. This new mode of mine land reclamation and reuse adheres to a progressive set of best practices that meet criteria established by the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition, called Innovative Mine Reclamation. This replaces the stale strategies of the past with site-specific, community-minded, and sustainable approaches for vibrant end uses that will yield economic and environmental benefits for years to come.
Story Map: Economic Effects of Special Protection Stream Designations (2022)
Downstream Strategies created this story map to complement the study, “Economic Effects of Special Protection Stream Designations in the Pocono Mountains Region,” which quantifies the economic benefits of Exceptional Value and High Quality stream designations in the Poconos region of Pennsylvania. The study, commissioned by the Our Pocono Waters campaign and conducted by Key-Log Economics, is the first to examine this topic for the area. Our Pocono Waters is made up of local business owners, nonprofits, community members, and other stakeholders dedicated to protecting the clean streams of the Poconos. This story map was funded by nonprofit and campaign member PennFuture. View the story map or the web map.
Preparing for Growth: Readying the Elk River Trail Towns for the Future (2022)
Recreation and tourism investments in Central West Virginia have centered around the establishment of the Elk River Trail System, which runs through portions of Kanawha, Clay, and Braxton counties. Paralleling the Elk River, the Elk River Trail System provides recreation opportunities for anglers, boaters, cyclists, hikers, and equestrians living in or visiting the center of the state. It is a potential game changer for the communities of Sutton, Gassaway, Clay, and Clendenin. However, to maximize its economic development power, communities must implement intentional strategies to accommodate an increased number of visitors from different consumer groups. This report identifies strategies that would cost just over $4 million to implement over the next 10 years. These strategies could reasonably result in $250 million in new sales activity over the next 15 years in the four Elk River Trail Towns. This spending would result in nearly $390 million in regional economic activity and would support 195 full- and part-time jobs across different sectors of the economy.
Volunteer Tracking Primer (2022)
Prepared for the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts (TFA) and funded by Volunteer West Virginia, this report presents benefits, insights, recommendations, and best practices for volunteer tracking to assist TFA as it prepares to track volunteer contributions across the state for the first time. This guide is informed by a combination of literature reviews and surveys and discussions with West Virginia–based nonprofits. While it is tailored to fit TFA programs, this guide is designed to be general enough to apply to other organizations new to establishing a tracking system with special attention to the unique challenges facing rural organizations.
POWER for Transition: Investment in Coal Communities through the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative (2022)
This report examines implementation of the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, established by the Obama administration to assist communities hurt by declines in coal mining and coal-fired electricity generation. It examines the distribution of POWER funds by state, county, project type, and career sectors. The lessons learned through this retrospective analysis can be used to guide current and future federal policymaking to revitalize the economies of US coal communities. Downstream Strategies co-authored this report with Resources for the Future, Environmental Defense Fund, and Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.
Got Five On It: Economic Impacts and Observations of the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program Five Years In (2022)
The Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program was established in 2016 to return abandoned mine lands to productive use through economic and community development. In this report, we utilize economic impact models to estimate the economic benefits of AMLER projects. We also identify reasons why the Planning Phase of AMLER projects takes so much longer than other phases. We then offer recommendations for shortening the Planning Phase and providing the most significant local economic benefits possible.
Marlinton Bike Tourism Action Plan (2022)
The Town of Marlinton and community partners seek to enhance Marlinton’s standing as a key destination within the Snowshoe Highlands Area Ride Center and as a gateway community to the Monongahela National Forest. To achieve this shared vision, Marlinton sought Downstream Strategies’ assistance in 1) further developing Marlinton as a destination for outdoor recreation (particularly mountain biking), and 2) and marketing the town to non-local visitors. Our trail planning team is currently creating a two-part action plan for Marlinton focusing on both tourism infrastructure needs and marketing. The overall objective of this work is to prepare the community for increased visitation and to contribute to the greater regional effort of achieving gold-level status for the Snowshoe Highlands Area Ride Center within the next five years.
Line of Sight: Region VI Planning and Development Council Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy 2022-2026 (2022)
Region VI Planning and Development Council is the U.S. Economic Development Administration designated Economic Development District for North Central West Virginia, which includes Doddridge, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, and Taylor counties. Region VI is responsible for developing a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), a five-year economic plan to guide the growth of jobs, commerce, and community development.
The CEDS is a strategy-driven plan guided by a diverse workgroup of local representatives. It is established through local input, statistical analysis, and integration of economic development principles and practices. This CEDS identifies key themes that surfaced during the research process and during interviews conducted with stakeholders. It also details strategies that capitalize on strengths and opportunities to empower communities to build upon successful economic sectors and to pursue new and sustainable avenues for prosperity to grow the region’s diversifying economy.
Bracing for Change: A Market Study of Community Needs, the Built Environment, and Projected Growth in Thomas, West Virginia (2021)
Thomas, West Virginia, and the surrounding area of Tucker County have tremendous opportunities for development on the horizon. While new residents, increased tourism, and planned development could tremendously benefit the local and regional economies, the unprecedented growth is magnifying pressure on already overstrained local infrastructure. Prepared as part of the City of Thomas’ FY17 Brownfields Assessment Grant project, Downstream Strategies developed this report to explore several areas of community infrastructure that will be critical to supporting growth in the greater Thomas area. It then examines how brownfields redevelopment can be part of the solution to meeting community needs. The report includes:
- a market assessment with detailed sections on housing and business needs, which due to changing dynamics and market forces are both critical to local and regional economies;
- a built environment assessment exploring critical infrastructure, infill development, and brownfield redevelopment opportunities in Thomas and Davis; and
- recommendations and next steps the City of Thomas and its partners can take to accommodate future growth while making the area an even better place to live, work, and play.
Grafton Tourism Assessment (2021)
Since 2020, Grafton, Taylor County, West Virginia, has been the focus of the All Aboard Brownfields Redevelopment Initiative led by the Northern Brownfields Assistance Center (NBAC). The goal of this project is to help attract new business, lodging, and recreational opportunities to riverfront main streets in Grafton and other rural communities by redeveloping industrial legacy sites.
This report explores basic opportunities for expanding recreation-based tourism in Grafton and Taylor County. The document provides:
- a basic market analysis for recreation-based tourism in the general area, including profiles of targeted user groups relevant to Grafton and Taylor County;
- an assessment of Grafton’s existing tourism infrastructure, comparing what visitors look for in a town with what Grafton currently has in place;
- opportunities and recommendations to help Grafton and Taylor County attract more visitors to its downtown; and
- a contemporary inventory and prioritization of brownfield properties targeted for redevelopment.
Benchmarking Primer and Roadmap for Local Government (2021)
Benchmarking is the process of measuring and then comparing a building’s energy performance against itself, modeled buildings, or comparable buildings over time, which allows building owners and operators to compare operational costs and set reduction goals. This primer introduces local governments to energy efficient benchmarking concepts, tools, and approaches to manage expenses while detailing the local economic benefits and job creation potential of energy efficiency programs. In April 2021, the West Virginia Senate passed House Bill 2667, which established a benchmarking system and other energy efficiency initiatives. The report was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and partners included Energy Efficient West Virginia and the West Virginia Office of Energy.
Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits in West Virginia Coalfields (2021)
Policy makers are taking steps to invest in coal communities as the country enacts new policies to address global climate change. This analysis focuses on the Advanced Energy Manufacturing, or 48C, Tax Credit. The Build Back Better Act includes $25 billion in 48C tax credits, $4 billion of which would be set aside for communities where coal mines have closed or coal-fired power plants have retired. According to this analysis, the 48C tax credits in the Build Back Better Act would result in significant benefits to West Virginia, including thousands of jobs in manufacturing and other sectors.
Repairing the damage: Cleaning up hazardous coal ash can create jobs and protect the environment (2021)
The public health hazard of ash residue left over from coal-fired power plants amounts to a total of 4.5 billion tons at 100 million tons produced annually. Coal ash is often mixed with water and stored in coal ash ponds; more than 20% of the nation’s 700 coal ash ponds are in the Ohio River Valley. However, a “clean-closure” approach to cleaning up coal ash would create local job opportunities, protect public health and the environment, and generate more than $100 million in additional economic output in each Ohio and Kentucky. Downstream Strategies completed the economic impact analysis for closure scenarios for two case studies in the Ohio River for inclusion in Union of Concerned Scientists’ and the Ohio River Valley Institute’s coal ash cleanup report.
Moving forward at warp speed: Abandoned mine reclamation over the coming years (2021)
Billions of dollars of reclamation work remains to be done at abandoned mine lands across much of West Virginia, as well as eastern Ohio and southwestern Virginia. Congress is considering authorizing an appropriation of billions of dollars of reclamation funding, which will be spent over the next 15 years. This bill represents a massive investment in coal country workers. In West Virginia, this bill will result in approximately 1,910 jobs that continue for 15 years, while in Ohio and Virginia it will result in approximately 730 and 330 jobs, respectively. The economic output in these three states associated with this investment to reclaim abandoned mine lands totals almost $7.5 billion over 15 years.
Central Appalachian Mine Reforestation Assessment (CAMRA) Tool (2021)
The Central Appalachian Mine Reforestation Assessment tool uses satellite imagery and a new mathematical model to monitor and characterize the state of reclamation and the growth of trees and other vegetation on surface coal mines in Central Appalachia from 1984 to the present. The data set and tool will help regulators, researchers and the general public understand the current level of mining and surface mine cleanup in the region. The report includes links to a webmap, GIS data and algorithms used in the creation of the model. This tool was developed by Appalachian Voices, SkyTruth, 4E Analytics, Green Forests Work and Downstream Strategies.
Fauquier County Farmers’ Market Feasibility Study (2021)
Like many parts of the country, Fauquier County, Virginia, has seen growing interest in and support for public farmers’ markets in recent years, which surged in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a greater demand for local food. The Fauquier County Agricultural Development Department commissioned Downstream Strategies to develop this feasibility study to explore the viability of three potential enhancements to farmers’ markets programming in Fauquier County (new traditional, public farmers’ markets, a year-round, in-person farmers’ market, and an online farmers’ market sales platform). Downstream Strategies conducted comprehensive market research into the dynamics and trends of farmers’ markets, which included surveys designed and disseminated to both local producers and county residents as well as interviews with key stakeholders in the local foods arena. This report presents the findings from research and offers specific recommendations for the County as it looks to bolster its agricultural industry through farmers’ markets.
River Cities Redevelopment Roadmap (2021)
With major trail developments planned for West Virginia’s Upper Kanawha Valley, the communities of Smithers and Montgomery (known as the River Cities) hope to draw future trail tourists into their downtowns to help stabilize and revitalize the local economy.
This report is designed as a roadmap to help Smithers and Montgomery develop their community capacity for tourism so that they will be prepared to take advantage of new market opportunities in the outdoor economy.
Using Downstream Strategies’ framework for assessing tourism infrastructure, this plan identifies specific businesses, services, and other amenities that will be needed to attract trail visitors to Montgomery and Smithers and offers guidance on how the River Cities can jumpstart targeted tourism-sector business creation. It features detailed startup scenarios for two business opportunities, as well as detailed next steps, recommendations, and a checklist to guide local leaders in launching their nascent tourism economy.
West Virginia Energy Code Primer and Summary Sheet (2021)
Energy codes are widely used building codes that reduce energy use by regulating the design and components of buildings, such as heating and air conditioning systems, ventilation, wall insulation, windows, and lighting. The West Virginia Legislature updated the state energy code for residential buildings in 2013 and the energy code for commercial buildings in 2019; however, only a handful of West Virginia cities and counties have adopted and currently enforce these energy codes. Energy codes promote good building practices and safeguard both occupant and building health by preventing dangerous conditions caused by poor moisture and air control, such as mold growth, structural rot, air contamination, and the spread of smoke and fire. Additionally, they have the potential to save West Virginians thousands of dollars if their city or county adopts and enforces state building energy codes. The report was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and partners included Energy Efficient West Virginia and the West Virginia Office of Energy.
Restoration and Renewal: The New Appalachian Economy (2021)
This third report from the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition outlines innovative projects that would transform abandoned coal mine lands in West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, and beyond into sites of sustainable community and economic development. This new mode of mine land reclamation and reuse adheres to a progressive set of best practices that meet criteria established by the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition, called Innovative Mine Reclamation. This replaces the stale strategies of the past with site-specific, community-minded, and sustainable approaches for vibrant end uses that will yield economic and environmental benefits for years to come. This report also introduces a new Coalition initiative in the form of a mini-grant program, and highlights recipients from Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Kentucky.
West Virginia’s Energy Future: Ramping Up Renewable Energy to Decrease Costs, Reduce Risks, and Strengthen Economic Opportunities for West Virginia (2020)
West Virginia’s electric utilities are expected to maintain more than 80% coal-fired electricity generation until 2035. The anticipated maintenance and upgrades to keep coal units operational present significant cost potential to West Virginia’s electric ratepayers. This report compares the current trajectory of West Virginia’s electric utilities—estimated to maintain 84% coal-fired generation in 2035—against an alternative future of more energy efficiency, solar energy, and wind energy.
The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure: How a Failure to Act Would Affect the U.S. Economic Recovery (2020)
Of all the infrastructure sectors—water, transportation, and others—water is the most fundamental to life. People need clean water in their homes to cook, drink, and bathe. Farms in many regions cannot grow crops without irrigation. Government offices, hospitals, restaurants, and other commercial establishments cannot operate without plentiful, clean water. And many industries—food and chemical manufacturing and coal-fired power plants, for example—could not operate without clean water that is a component of finished products or that is used for industrial processes or cooling. In addition to water supply, wastewater treatment and stormwater management are critically important. Without effective wastewater treatment, bacteria-laden water would pollute rivers and lakes, leading to public health emergencies downstream. And without proper stormwater systems, overflows of raw sewage and flooding would occur more frequently, and homes and businesses would be damaged as stormwater from one property flows quickly to others. Water infrastructure is expensive to build and maintain, and much of the nation’s water infrastructure was built decades ago. This report estimates future water infrastructure capital and operations and maintenance needs and spending through 2039. It then calculates the capital and operations and maintenance gaps for the nation’s drinking water and wastewater/stormwater infrastructure.
Advancing Budding Projects: A Guide and Toolkit for Estimating the Economic Benefits of Sustainable Development Ideas in Southwestern Pennsylvania (2020)
Across Appalachia, the Rust Belt, and beyond, people are coming together to reimagine a future in which their communities shift away from fossil fuel–based economies in favor of more resilient, sustainable industries. Four organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania that are affiliated with the greater ReImagine Appalachia Initiative have developed nascent ideas for sustainable development in their communities. To help propel these ideas into fully fundable concepts, Downstream Strategies was contracted to develop a guide and toolkit for estimating the economic benefits of sustainable development projects.
Solar in the Shadows: Expanding Access to Clean Energy in Forgotten America (2020)
The uneven distribution of clean energy projects across the country means that the environmental and health impacts of flipping on the lights are starkly different depending on where in the country you live. By shifting the focus of corporate investments in renewable energy to regions of the country with disproportionately carbon-intense electricity production (i.e., dirty grids), we can achieve deeper, faster emissions reductions per unit of installed capacity, bring good-paying clean energy jobs, and spur economic investment in regions of the country that vitally need them.
Mountaineer Trail Network: Preston County Master Trail Plan (2020)
This report is the first in a planned series of county-level plans for the Mountaineer Trail Network. Focused on Preston County, it pilots a custom planning methodology developed by Downstream Strategies staff for counties within the Mountaineer Trail Network. Designed as a tool for leveraging trail-based tourism development, this plan catalogs existing assets and highlights key opportunities for trail and tourism infrastructure development in Preston County. As such, the document serves as a stand-alone planning tool for Preston County stakeholders to guide local trail and tourism development efforts already underway. It is also a critical first piece of what will become a greater Network-wide master plan.
Charting a Path: An Economic Impact Study of Trail Development in Summers County (2020)
Summers County lies at the convergence of some of West Virginia’s most cherished and visited destinations, from the New River Gorge National River to the Bluestone National Scenic River. As such natural assets become increasingly well suited for current market opportunities, Downstream Strategies conducted a comprehensive economic impact study for proposed trail development in Summers County, specifically that of the Great Eastern Trail and Mary Ingles Trail. This report examines trends in recreation economy, user demographics, existing tourism infrastructure, and economic impacts of both construction and use of the completed trails, and provides practical implementation recommendations.
A Roadmap for Solar on Mine Lands in West Virginia: Emerging Opportunity to Grow the West Virginia Economy, Attract New Employers, Increase Investment, and Create Jobs (2020)
This report, the second of two companion reports, explores two interrelated ways to spur new investment in solar arrays on former surface mines in West Virginia: pilot projects and new policies. Successful pilot projects will help demonstrate feasibility and provide a roadmap for new policies, and new policies will help accelerate the development of additional projects.
Solar Development in West Virginia: A Pathway to a Brighter Economic Future (2020)
West Virginia has potential to capitalize on an economic opportunity that will generate energy, jobs, and tax revenues: solar development. This is the first of two companion reports that provide a roadmap for facilitating solar development on mined lands in West Virginia. This report discusses the drivers of solar development across the region and identifies the benefits that states already pursuing solar development are receiving.
Power Purchase Agreements: A No-Nonsense Way to Energize Economic Growth in West Virginia (2020)
As the cost of distributed energy resources has plummeted in recent years, more West Virginia communities, families, businesses, and tax-exempt institutions (schools, churches, nonprofit organizations, and local governments) want to take advantage of these energy options. Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are a widely available method to finance distributed energy generation projects. Unfortunately, PPAs are not currently authorized in the Mountain State. This report establishes a case for authorizing Power Purchase Agreements in West Virginia.
Toolkits for the Arts (2019)
Downstream Strategies created a six-part series of toolkits for the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts. Funded by an “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, this series provides straightforward guidance to help individuals, communities, arts councils, and other creative entities implement local initiatives for the visual arts. The toolkits feature topics including:
- Create an arts organization.
- Form an artist cooperative.
- Host a pop-up art shop.
- Organize a studio tour.
- Arrange an art walk.
- Lead a public mural project.
A New Horizon: Innovative Reclamation for a Just Transition (2019)
This second report from the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition outlines 19 innovative projects that would transform abandoned coal mine lands in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Virginia into sites of sustainable community and economic development through ventures specific to the culture, skills, and geography of the Central Appalachian region. Sectors covered include agriculture, reusable materials management, ecotourism, renewable energy, and an array of other projects that can be adapted and replicated across the region.
Understanding Mountain Bike Tourism: Strategies and Recommendations for Increasing Mountain Bike Tourism Opportunities in Richwood, West Virginia (2019)
Located at the gateway to West Virginia’s scenic highlands, Richwood lies within close proximity to many of the state’s most renowned mountain biking destinations. This report highlights opportunities and marketing strategies that could help Richwood capitalize on mountain bike tourism. Specifically, this document provides: a brief profile of the mountain bike user group; an overview of existing trail resources in Richwood, nearby mountain biking destinations, and upcoming opportunities that may expand the presence of mountain biking in the region; recommendations to help Richwood business owners market specifically to mountain bikers; and examples of other rural communities that have used mountain biking to spur local economic development.
Community Development Innovation (2019)
Downstream Strategies conducted research and analysis on community development trends in West Virginia over the last decade for the West Virginia Community Development Hub. Much of this research, including survey results and community best practices, is shared through this preliminary report published by the Hub.
Pipeline Impacts to Water Quality: Documented Impacts and Recommendations for Improvement (2019)
This report describes water quality impacts observed along the routes of four pipelines that have been recently completed or are under construction: the Mountain Valley Pipeline and WB Xpress Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia, the Rover Pipeline in West Virginia and Ohio, and the Mariner East II Pipeline in Pennsylvania. It documents the failure of erosion and sedimentation controls leading to sedimentation in waterways, as well as the contamination of streams and wetlands from spilled drilling fluid during horizontal directional drilling. The report also offers recommendations for improving regulation and oversight, best management practice design and implementation, and construction techniques for large-scale pipeline projects.
Get it while it’s hot! Viable downtown redevelopment options for Fairmont, West Virginia (2019)
As part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Community Wide Brownfields Assessment Grant, the City of Fairmont contracted Downstream Strategies to perform a market analysis for the redevelopment of the historic former YMCA and Fairmont Firehouse. This report explores the market feasibility of market-rate housing, office and coworking space, a restaurant and/or bar, and other creative reuse options as viable end uses. It also includes specific recommendations and an Implementation Guide to assist City administrators, developers, and other stakeholders in capitalizing on the market opportunities in the Friendly City.
Strengthening Economic Resilience in Appalachia Technical Report and Guidebook for Practitioners (2019)
Working with Dialogue + Design and researchers from West Virginia University and Pennsylvania State University, Downstream Strategies completed a study for the Appalachian Regional Commission on ways coal-impacted communities can transform and diversify their economies and build resilience against future economic shocks. The study resulted in two documents: a technical report that describes the quantitative analysis used to explore the factors that increase a community’s ability to buffer an economic shock; and a guidebook which summarizes project findings, presents case studies, and suggests best practices and strategies for communities to employ in order to build resilience.
Martinsburg Green Infrastructure Plan (2019)
In partnership with the City of Martinsburg, Downstream Strategies, Harbor Engineering, and Canaan Valley Institute secured a Chesapeake Bay Technical Capacity Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in 2017 to develop an implementation plan for green infrastructure demonstration sites in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Through this grant-funded project, the team prioritized 10 potential sites for green infrastructure improvements and create conceptual designs for each, created detailed designs and cost estimates for the three highest-priority sites, and developed educational materials to engage the public and secure broad support for green infrastructure solutions within the community.
Many Voices, Many Solutions: Innovative Mine Reclamation in Central Appalachia (2018)
Appalachia is in a moment of profound change. As the region struggles to build a new economy amidst the decline of the coal industry, communities are looking to develop innovative economic solutions that are specific to the context and problems of this place. This report profiles 20 promising projects in West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, which qualify for federal Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Pilot funding, that would spur economic activity across the region.
Cumberland Blight Action Plan (2018)
Downstream Strategies worked with the West Virginia University Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic to produce a Blight Action Plan for the City of Cumberland, Maryland. Over the course of this project, the project team facilitated community meetings and stakeholder interviews, researched various policies and strategies, and surveyed over 500 blighted, abandoned, and dilapidated buildings through an online survey app for smartphones created by our staff. We designed the survey instrument, managed the geospatial data, and co-authored the Blight Action Plan, which outlines recommendations for the city’s redevelopment.
Alderson Strategic Riverfront Enhancement Plan (2018)
Celebrated for its beauty and recreational opportunities, the Greenbrier River flows through the heart of downtown Alderson and serves as a focal point that shapes the town’s sense of community. As riverfront development gains traction as an effective tool for downtown revitalization and economic development, Alderson’s town leaders and planners see the river as the centerpiece for the town’s future. This Strategic Riverfront Enhancement Plan will guide the development of Alderson’s riverfront.
Beefing Up Appalachia (2018)
Downstream Strategies led a multi-agency team in creating this landmark analysis of the challenges and opportunities in niche meat production in the tri-state region of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. Through this project, our team collected data through an extensive survey and interview process that reached three distinct audiences in three states: producers, meat processors, and retailers. We then combined the analysis of these surveys and interviews with national and state-level data to spotlight specific market opportunities in the tri-state meat sector. The final deliverable included a comprehensive report with appendices including mini-business plans, business concepts, and example farmer survey questions.
Future scenarios for Monongalia County’s solid waste management system (2018)
The Monongalia County Solid Waste Authority (MCSWA) seeks innovative solutions to address solid waste issues facing the county now and for decades into the future. Recent projects have focused on understanding the potential of gasification to reduce the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) sent to landfills. (Read more here.) This report broadens MCSWA’s discussion to consider increased recycling and composting in addition to gasification.
Tourism Business Opportunity Assessment: Hinton (2018)
This report explores current and future opportunities for tourism business development in Hinton, West Virginia. Using the context of the tourism value chain, this study identifies marketable tourism products and attractions in the Hinton area, assesses the town’s tourism capacity based on existing businesses and services, identifies gaps in Hinton’s current tourism infrastructure, and outlines business-specific recommendations and next steps to develop and maintain a thriving tourism industry.
Tourism Business Opportunity Assessment: Matewan (2018)
This report explores current and future opportunities for tourism business development in Matewan, West Virginia. Using the context of the tourism value chain, this study identifies marketable tourism products and attractions in the Matewan area, assesses the town’s tourism capacity based on existing businesses and services, identifies gaps in Matewan’s current tourism infrastructure, and outlines business-specific recommendations and next steps to develop and maintain a thriving tourism industry.
Tourism Business Opportunity Assessment: Richwood (2018)
This report explores current and future opportunities for tourism business development in Richwood, West Virginia. Using the context of the tourism value chain, this study identifies marketable tourism products and attractions in the Richwood area, assesses the town’s tourism capacity based on existing businesses and services, identifies gaps in Richwood’s current tourism infrastructure, and outlines business-specific recommendations and next steps to develop and maintain a thriving tourism industry.
Tourism Business Opportunity Assessment: Whitesville (2018)
This report explores current and future opportunities for tourism business development in Whitesville, West Virginia. Using the context of the tourism value chain, this study identifies marketable tourism products and attractions in the Whitesville area, assesses the town’s tourism capacity based on existing businesses and services, identifies gaps in Whitesville’s current tourism infrastructure, and outlines business-specific recommendations and next steps to develop and maintain a thriving tourism industry.
Charting Restoration: Seven Years after Deepwater Horizon (2018)
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill focused the attention of the Gulf states and the nation on the ongoing problems in the Gulf of Mexico. In the years since, multiple restoration plans have been developed with the goal of guiding restoration and conservation decisions in the Gulf of Mexico and the lands along its coastline. This report and accompanying story map analyze those plans, maps restoration priorities across the Gulf, and then compares the findings to the BP-related money that has been distributed to date.
Threats to Groundwater from Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline Water Crossings in Virginia (2018)
This report assesses threats and likely impacts to underground sources of drinking water in Virginia during the construction and operation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline that, as proposed, would cross 18 counties and two cities within Virginia. Specifically, this report focuses on threats to private drinking water wells and springs.
Threats to Water Quality from Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline Water Crossings in Virginia (2018)
This report assesses threats and likely impacts to waterbodies in Virginia during the construction and operation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline, two large natural gas pipelines that, as proposed, would cross rivers and streams over 1,000 times in Virginia.
Impacts of Mountain Valley Pipeline Stream Crossings within the Jurisdiction of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (2018)
This report discusses impacts from Mountain Valley Pipeline stream crossings under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Sedimentation from pipeline construction is likely to impact important aquatic species, drinking water intakes, recreation, and wetlands.
Impacts of Atlantic Coast Pipeline Stream Crossings within the Jurisdiction of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (2018)
This report discusses impacts from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on streams impacted by the crossings under the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s (VMRC’s) jurisdiction. VMRC issues permits for subaqueous activities in streams with a drainage basin of greater than five square miles, or a mean annual flow greater than five cubic feet per second. This report analyzes the impacts of MVP’s VMRC-jurisdictional crossings on sedimentation, important aquatic species, drinking water intakes, recreation, and wetlands.
Making Assets of Liabilities: Innovative Land Reuse in West Virginia (2017)
Recent public and private interest in the sustainable redevelopment of degraded land in West Virginia is unprecedented. This story map serves as a resource to empower decision makers, property owners, and economic development practitioners to better understand the landscape of degraded spaces and maximize the environmental and economic returns of projects on these sites.
Capturing the Sun’s Rays: An Economic Impact Assessment of Solar Development in Southwest Virginia (2017)
In Southwest Virginia, a group of nonprofit and community action agencies, colleges, state agencies, planning district commissions, and other interested citizens and businesses are seeking to develop a solar energy industry cluster in the seven coalfield counties of Southwest Virginia. Development of some or all aspects of the solar industry value–chain—from component manufacturing and sales to engineering and installation—will not only grow the local economy, but also provide new businesses with abundant, redundant, and renewable energy. Understanding this potential economic boon provides lawmakers and energy industry officials in the region a powerful leverage point for scaling up a diverse renewable energy sector.
In Everyone’s Backyard: Assessing Proximity of Fracking to Communities At-Risk in West Virginia’s Marcellus Shale (2017)
In the past decade, natural gas drilling and extraction from the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia has grown rapidly. In this study, we explore whether gas production has become more common near places essential for everyday life in West Virginia, increasing the potential for human exposure to contaminants associated with drilling and natural gas extraction. We also characterize the toxicity of a set of chemicals used to frack wells near sensitive populations to better understand the potential for harmful exposures. This report was produced in partnership with SkyTruth and San Francisco State University.
Source Water Protection Plan Implementation for Utilities, Watershed or Other Community Groups (2017)
This guide provides information to utilities and watershed groups about source water protection plans and watershed-based plans and encourages potential collaborations between these entities to achieve similar goals. It also provides recommendations for public involvement in the implementation of both types of plans. Case studies of watersheds with both source water protection plans and watershed-based plans are included to highlight similarities and opportunities for collaboration.
Citizens’ Guide to Fracking Permits in West Virginia (2017)
In recent years, natural gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within the Marcellus Shale has been expanding in West Virginia. Natural gas extraction and associated infrastructure impacts the environment and people living nearby. Before construction can occur, companies must apply for permits designed to protect the environment. This guide describes five permits required by the State of West Virginia and explains opportunities for citizens to get involved during the permitting process.
Prospects for Large-scale Solar on Degraded Land in West Virginia (2016)
As solar markets have exploded and the new low-carbon economy has improved its footing, West Virginia’s economy has crumbled. West Virginia’s miners and the once-prosperous companies that employed them have fallen on hard times. West Virginia’s small towns and rural communities are dotted with degraded lands, including former mines, hazardous waste sites, landfills, Superfund sites, and Brownfield sites. This report examines the opportunities for large-scale solar development on these sites. The authors also explore the environmental and economic impacts of this type of development in the Mountain State.
An Evaluation of Waste-to-energy Options for Monongalia County, West Virginia (2016)
This report presents the results of a research project conducted for the Monongalia Solid Waste Authority (MCSWA). This project was the first phase in an investigation into the feasibility of these technologies to reduce the volume of solid waste flowing from Monongalia County into landfills.
The Importance of Safe Drinking Water for Protecting Women’s and Children’s Health (2016)
While polluted drinking water can harm any person, pregnant women and babies are particularly sensitive to certain pollutants. Category A, one portion of West Virginia’s water quality standards, protects surface waters from harmful levels of more than 80 pollutants, including metals, organic compounds, and other toxic pollutants. Category A is the backbone for Clean Water Act protections for the state’s rivers, streams, and reservoirs that serve as drinking water sources. This report explains the importance of Category A for protecting women’s reproductive health.
Lake Superior Brook Trout Conservation and Prioritization Report (2016)
Downstream Strategies, with close coordination with Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office biologists, developed smart, effective conservation targets for Lake Superior Basin brook trout. The team refined maps of known brook trout populations, measured the quality of habitat, quantified stress on fish populations, and projected how habitat might be degraded or improved as climate change occurs. This information, in turn, was used to home in on locations or watersheds within the basin where conservation and restoration activities will offer the greatest value per effort. The result was a comprehensive approach to brook trout conservation, embodied within multiple conservation scenarios, each of which takes into consideration a unique set of factors to identify ideal locations for specific conservation practices. Additionally, as part of the extensive data development for this project, Downstream Strategies created a basin-wide network of stream segment accessibility to Lake Superior. The accessibility measure was used in coordination with other brook trout habitat and population metrics to find the highest priority restoration and protection priorities across the Lake Superior Basin.
Healing Our Land, Growing Our Future: Innovative Mine Reclamation in Southwest Virginia (2016)
In early 2016, Downstream Strategies worked with Appalachian Voices to profile 14 candidate projects for RECLAIM Act funding in Southwest Virginia. The RECLAIM Act is focused on reclaiming abandoned mine lands to put them back into productive use, and it offers a vehicle by which communities and entrepreneurs can work to revitalize the economy of the Appalachian region. We worked closely with community members and local officials to identify sites and projects that stand to benefit from these monies and together we compiled information, facilitated connections between key players, and provided support, all in the name of pushing forward marquee economic development projects. This report describes these projects in detail and lays the foundation for ground-up economic redevelopment by the residents of Southwest Virginia.
Guidance for Monitoring Effects of Gas Pipeline Development on Surface Water and Groundwater Supplies (2016)
This report provides information concerning risks, potential impacts, and other water supply issues related to pipeline development. It details methods for establishing baseline information on water quantity and quality, long-term monitoring to detect change, collection of data that will be needed to hold pipeline developers responsible for harm to water supplies, as well as laboratories and consultants that can conduct monitoring and perform analyses. The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance commissioned this report for landowners and water providers concerned about the potential impacts of pipeline development on water supplies.
Expanding Economic Opportunities for West Virginia under the Clean Power Plan (2016)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its final rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants in 2015. This analysis presents two compliance scenarios and policy recommendations that illustrate how an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy would help West Virginia comply with the Clean Power Plan while advancing economic development goals through an expanded energy economy.
All of Our Eggs in One Basket? An Update on the Decline of Central Appalachian Coal and Increasing Budget Woes in West Virginia (2016)
For many years, both private and government forecasts have predicted sharp declines in Central Appalachian and West Virginia coal production. In recent years, these declines have occurred, largely as predicted, and southern West Virginia has been hit particularly hard. Headlines tell stories of miners losing their jobs, mines closing, companies filing for bankruptcy, and decreases in severance tax revenues—all of which have significant impacts on local economies. At the state level, the governor of West Virginia announced a 4 percent across-the-board budget cut in 2015, due primarily to declines in coal severance tax revenues. In this white paper, we present five key charts that update the story of the decline of Central Appalachian coal, with a particular focus on West Virginia.
Estuarine Fish Habitat Assessment: A General Framework and Winter Flounder Pilot Studies (2015)
Downstream Strategies created predictive models for estuarine areas and performed aquatic habitat assessments for the Northeast United States. We modeled winter flounder habitat in Narragansett Bay and Long Island Sound. This document describes the process used to create the modeling framework, provides details of the habitat assessments, and discusses the lessons learned that may aid future, similar efforts.
Capturing Resource Wealth to Invest in the Future: Possible Structures and Potential Benefits of an Illinois Coal Severance Tax (2015)
This report analyzes the potential uses and benefits of a new coal severance tax in Illinois. Information and lessons taken from other states are used to project the amount of revenue that could be generated for Illinois from a coal severance tax and to model how the resulting revenues might be distributed. We propose a tax model for Illinois that would maximize benefits for both state and local governments while also financing a permanent mineral trust fund.
Hub Connectivity Feasibility Assessment (2015)
This study builds on existing research and a distributor survey to provide an overview of inter-food-hub and distributor relationships present in West Virginia’s local food economy. Results identify communities in West Virginia that show high probability for success in ongoing and future local food development efforts and includes a case study of how a new strategy for local food consortia could work.
Chesapeake Bay Watershed Brook Trout Habitat and Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (2015)
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement established a management outcome focused on restoring and sustaining naturally reproducing brook trout populations in the Chesapeake Bay’s headwater streams. Partners and stakeholders desired a product that would ultimately guide the achievement of the conservation priorities in the Chesapeake Bay’s Brook Trout Management Strategy. This report presents the details of a statistically-valid predictive model that captured underlying cause-and-effect relationships between habitat characteristics and brook trout within this watershed.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline in West Virginia: Opportunities for Public Engagement regarding Erosion and Sedimentation (2015)
In West Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline crosses numerous streams, which range from small headwaters streams to larger rivers with widths of up to 90 feet. Pipeline construction, especially in mountainous areas, can accelerate erosion and cause sedimentation of streams. This sedimentation can impact other rivers downstream from those directly crossed by the pipeline, including Tier 3 streams that receive special protections under West Virginia’s antidegradation implementation procedures. This report provides suggestions for public participation in the pipeline permitting processes.
Conservation Easements as a Strategy for Drinking Water Protection, Lewisburg, West Virginia (2015)
Downstream Strategies worked with the West Virginia Land Trust to identify parcels of land that would be suitable for conservation easements that would contribute to protection of Lewisburg, West Virginia’s drinking water source. This report outlines the process undertaken to prioritize parcels of land that have important natural qualities and those that have potential to contribute contaminants to the drinking water source, the Greenbrier River.
Mountain Maryland Energy Advisory Committee (2015)
Downstream Strategies provided technical assistance and facilitated monthly meetings for the Mountain Maryland Energy Advisory Committee, a county-sponsored work group that met from 2013 through 2015. The committee was established to advise the Board of County Commissioners of Garrett County and Allegany County, Maryland on local and state policies, regulations, programs, and legislation to help guide energy planning, with the goal of maximizing likely positive effects and minimizing potentially negative consequences of energy development.
The Clean Power Plan and West Virginia: Compliance Options and New Economic Opportunities (2015)
This analysis presents several compliance scenarios and policy recommendations that illustrate how an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy would help West Virginia comply with the Clean Power Plan while advancing economic development goals through an expanded energy economy. It was written after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its draft rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, but before the Agency released its final rule.
Charting Restoration: Five Years after Deepwater Horizon (2015)
This report analyzes existing strategic restoration plans from multiple federal, state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, and coalitions to identify and map restoration priorities across the Gulf of Mexico. The report then compares the findings to the BP-related money that has been distributed to date. For more information, please see the Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico office.
West Virginia Food Hub Feasibility Assessment (2015)
A food hub is a centrally located entity that facilitates the aggregation, production, storage, and marketing of local food. This assessment, produced in partnership with The New Appalachian Farm and Research Center, provides a snapshot of the state’s current and potential local fruit and vegetable production. It gives an in-depth look at the top three regions in the state for fruit and vegetable production based on survey data and provides a food hub feasibility analysis. It also includes a directory of producers interested in expanding and selling their products. This report is intended to assist stakeholders, funders, businesses, policy makers, aggregation efforts, and other organizations inside and outside of West Virginia in deciding where to focus resources to strengthen the West Virginia local food economy.
Aboveground Storage Tanks in West Virginia: A Snapshot, including Addendum: Impacts of HB 2574 and SB 423 on the number of tanks regulated by the Aboveground Storage Tank Act (2015)
The West Virginia Legislature enacted Senate Bill 373 in response to the January 9, 2014 Freedom Industries chemical leak. This bill included numerous provisions to help prevent contamination of drinking water and to better plan for responses, should contamination occur. Among these provisions was the Aboveground Storage Tank Act. This report provides an analysis of the more than 47,000 tanks registered by mid-December. An addendum analyzes the impacts of HB 2574 and SB 423 on the number of tanks regulated by the Act.
Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership (2015)
Downstream Strategies created a spatially explicit data analysis and modeling system for assessing fish habitat condition within the Great Lakes Basin. This report summarizes the data, methods, and results of the models created for brook trout, walleye, coldwater species, large river species, and lithophillic species. The results enable a unique, broad, and spatially explicit understanding of the links between natural habitat conditions, human influences on aquatic habitats, and aquatic health.
Tucker County, West Virginia Small Business and Housing Needs Assessment (2014)
Downstream Strategies performed a housing and small business needs assessment for Tucker County, focusing on the primary population centers. The assessment combined a research-based characterization with a participatory process. The project employed a phased approach to address each of the goals and objectives identified by the stakeholders. Data was summarized in Phase 1 and expanded upon in Phase 2 through the implementation of a stakeholder survey. An econometric model was created in Phase 3.
Ohio River Basin Watershed Models (2014)
This report details the predictive models created for Macroinvertebrate Bioassessment Index (MBI) within the Licking River (Kentucky) watershed and the Fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) within the Muskingum River (Ohio) watershed.
Carbon Dioxide Emission Reduction Opportunities for the West Virginia Power Sector: Discussion Paper (2014)
This discussion paper reviews EPA’s proposed rules to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants and presents policy recommendations on steps West Virginia could take to comply with these rules while also capturing the economic, social, and environmental benefits of expanding the state’s energy economy. This paper is part of a Center for Energy & Sustainable Development initiative to develop sustainable solutions for the economic, energy, and climate challenges facing West Virginia. The initiative is supported through a grant from the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation.
Comments on Proposed Changes to 33CSR1, Solid Waste Management Rule, Pertaining to the Management of Drilling Wastes in West Virginia Municipal Solid Waste Landfills (2014)
This report was prepared at the request of the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority to assist in its preparation for a public hearing regarding proposed changes to the West Virginia Solid Waste Management Rule. The proposed changes address an increasing waste stream generated during drilling at Marcellus Shale gas wells.
Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory for Morgantown, West Virginia (2014)
This report calculates a community-wide 2012 baseline inventory of greenhouse gas emissions for the city of Morgantown, West Virginia, including West Virginia University. This inventory lays the foundation for Phase 2, in which promising commercial and residential energy-saving projects are identified, and Phase 3, in which they are implemented.
Potential Significant Contaminant Sources above West Virginia American Water’s Charleston Intake: A Preliminary Assessment (2014)
This report provides a preliminary assessment of sites that, if improperly managed, could contaminate West Virginia American Water’s drinking water intake on the Elk River in Charleston. It was presented to legislators as they completed work on a bill to prevent future spills and to upgrade the protection of public water intakes across the state. It will also be useful as public utilities, local governments, and citizens across West Virginia engage in new source water protection efforts. This report was produced in partnership with the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
The Freedom Industries Spill: Lessons Learned and Needed Reforms (2014)
On January 9, 2014, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection received an odor complaint for the Freedom Industries Etowah River Terminal site—a bulk storage distribution center holding thousands of gallons of chemicals along the Elk River, approximately 1.5 miles above the drinking water intake for West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant. West Virginia American Water supplies drinking water to approximately 300,000 people in a nine-county area, including Charleston. MCHM and other chemicals are stored at the Freedom Industries site. This report outlines specific policy recommendations necessary to protect drinking water sources and prevent future chemical spills. It focuses on key issues, information gaps, and policy remedies as they relate to three environmental laws most relevant to the chemical spill, including the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. This report was produced in partnership with the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
Using Solar PV to Create Economic Opportunity and Energy Diversity in West Virginia: Five Policy Recommendations (2014)
Solar energy has the potential to be part of a bright economic future of West Virginia—a future built on a thriving and just economy rooted in the Mountaineer spirit of self-sufficiency. This report explains the benefits of solar energy and provides an overview of state policies needed to expand its deployment in West Virginia. This report was produced in partnership with The Mountain Institute’s Appalachia Program.
Ronceverte Eco-Community Plan (2013)
A multi-phased sustainable planning initiative can transform Ronceverte, West Virginia into one of the greenest small towns in rural Appalachia. Downstream Strategies and stakeholders developed the Ronceverte Eco-Community Plan to enhance local economic growth and environmental sustainability. Stakeholders established a framework for the plan based on three primary components—water, energy, and community—and place a particular focus on stormwater management, energy efficiency, renewable energy development, and enhancing the quality of life for residents.
Water Resource Reporting and Water Footprint from Marcellus Shale Development in West Virginia and Pennsylvania (2013)
In recent years, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have improved their regulation and oversight of water use and pollution from Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction. Both states now require recordkeeping and public reporting of key water quality and quantity information. In this report, we use these databases to document water withdrawals, fluid injections, and waste recovery and disposal, including the transport of waste to neighboring states. We also apply the concept of life cycle analysis to calculate the water footprint of the extraction phase of natural gas from Marcellus Shale. In addition, we provide recommendations for improving data collection and reporting requirements to appropriately inform future management decisions by policy makers, regulators, and operators. This report was funded by a Network Innovation Grant from the Robert & Patricia Switzer Foundation.
Case Study: Analysis of Scale on Boosted Regression Tree Fish Habitat Models (2013)
This report summarizes a case study conducted to analyze the implications of predictive modeling at various scales. It builds off of the Fish Habitat Partnership model results from the Ohio River Basin and regional assessments. We found that models created for smaller geographic areas improve predictive power of models and ensure that relationships derived from the model are applicable to the focal area, rather than being influenced by larger, regional factors.
Proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument: The Economic Impacts of Designation (2013)
This report explores the economic benefits of the proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument. National monument designation is a special status bestowed upon federal lands possessing unique natural, cultural, or historic features. Designating the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument could support over 140 jobs and bring approximately $5.2 million in economic activity to the region.
Midwest Regional Fish Habitat Assessment (2013)
This report details the predictive models created for coldwater, coolwater, and warmwater fish guilds across the midwestern United States.
Environmental Benefits to the Chesapeake Bay of a Poultry Litter Baling Facility in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia (2013)
A poultry litter baling facility can help reduce West Virginia’s pollutant discharges to the Chesapeake Bay. By creating compost, which is more stable and consistent than fresh litter, and exporting the compost from the watershed, nutrient loads delivered to the Bay are reduced. Among poultry growers, private foundations, and others, there is an interest in creating a self-sustaining business that creates and sells a value-added product like compost to help reduce nutrient loads in the Bay watershed. This study investigates how to quantify the environmental benefits of a poultry litter baling facility.
Overcoming the Market Barriers to Organic Production in West Virginia (2013)
There are very few certified organic farms in West Virginia. Based on surveys and interviews of West Virginia farmers, combined with economic, policy, and GIS analyses, this report identifies barriers and proposes recommendations for the expansion of organic agriculture across the state. This research was conducted in collaboration with the Indiana University School of Public Health.
The Impact of Coal on the Illinois State Budget (2013)
This report estimates both the benefits and costs attributable to the Illinois coal industry for Fiscal Year 2011 and examines the legacy costs associated with past coal industry activity.
Pocahontas County Water Resources Management Plan: Phase 1 – Water Resources Assessment (2012) and Phase 2 (2013)
Pocahontas County, West Virginia has exceptional water resources and is often referred to as the “Birthplace of Rivers.” Downstream Strategies utilized an inclusive stakeholder process to develop a water resources management plan for the county, which was adopted as part of the state’s Water Resources Management Plan. It includes, among other things, an inventory of surface water resources; estimates of safe yield; an inventory or large-quantity water users; a plan for the development of the infrastructure necessary to identify groundwater resources; projections of future water use needs; identification of potential problems with water availability and user/use conflicts; establishment of criteria to identify critical water planning areas, assessment of public water supply capability; identification of floodplain and stormwater management problems; and a review of statutes, rules, policies and institutional arrangements for the development, conservation, distribution and emergency management of water resources.
The Continuing Decline in Demand for Central Appalachian Coal: Market and Regulatory Influences (2013)
The Central Appalachian coal industry has experienced a sharp decline in recent years, and the region faces significant challenges that are expected to result in an even greater decline in the coming years. This report provides a comprehensive analysis of the numerous market and regulatory influences that are having an impact on demand for Central Appalachian coal and identifies which of the region’s coal-producing counties are most vulnerable. Key findings can be downloaded here.
Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership (2012)
Downstream Strategies was contracted by the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies through the Sportfish Restoration Program to create a spatially explicit data analysis and modeling system for assessing fish habitat condition within the Great Lakes Basin. This report summarizes the data, methods, and results of the models created for brook trout, walleye, coldwater species, large river species, and lithophillic species. Generally, the results of this project are intended to enable a unique, broad, and spatially explicit understanding of the links between natural habitat conditions, human influences on aquatic habitats, and aquatic health.
Guidance For Developing an Off-Site Stormwater Compliance Program in West Virginia (2012)
This guidance document helps West Virginia’s municipal separate storm sewer systems, or MS4s, implement off-site mitigation and payment-in-lieu programs within their service areas. It was produced in collaboration with the Center for Watershed Protection.
Sandy Creek of the Tygart Valley River Watershed-based Plan (2012)
This watershed-based plan for Sandy Creek will allow incremental Section 319 funds to be spent in the watershed to clean up nonpoint sources of acid mine drainage. It documents the sources and causes of known impairments, estimates remediation costs, proposes an implementation schedule for remediation, addresses technical and financial needs, and documents an outreach and education program to aid with implementation.
The Impact of Coal on the Virginia State Budget (2012)
This report estimates both the benefits and costs attributable to the Virginia coal industry for Fiscal Year 2009 and examines the legacy costs associated with past coal industry activity.
Alderson Community Energy Plan (2012)
As energy costs rise across Appalachia, local governments are examining ways to increase efficiency and stabilize costs while also promoting the development of new economic opportunities. Two ways to achieve these goals are by improving the energy efficiency of aging public buildings and installing solar panels to replace traditional fuels, whose prices are increasingly volatile. This project, headed by the Town of Alderson, resulted in the development and adoption of a Community Energy Plan for Alderson, West Virginia that was adopted by the Town Council in 2012. The plan provides a model for sustainable energy and economic development that may be adapted for other towns and counties across the Appalachian region.
West Virginia Food System: Opportunities and Constraints in Local Food Supply Chains (2012)
There is increasing demand for locally grown food in West Virginia, and more farmers and local food businesses are working to meet this demand. This report examines the existing local food supply chain infrastructure in the state, including processors, aggregators, distributors, and retail markets. It includes profiles of some of West Virginia’s local food businesses and a directory of local food resources.
Elk Headwaters Watershed Protection Plan (2012)
The Elk River headwaters in West Virginia provide habitat for a diverse range of species including trout, birds, and rare crayfish. This watershed protection plan provides a blueprint to ensure that, even with development, sediment and fecal coliform levels remain low and the watershed’s sensitive surface waters are protected. It identifies causes and sources of pollution, including streambank erosion, agriculture, developed areas, and wastewater. It then identifies management measures and cost estimates, documents potential partners and funding sources, and outlines milestones and a schedule for watershed projects.
The Impact of Coal on the Pennsylvania State Budget (2012)
This report estimates both the benefits and costs attributable to the Pennsylvania coal industry for Fiscal Year 2010-2011 and examines the legacy costs associated with past coal industry activity. This project was completed in collaboration with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
A Windfall for Coal Country? Exploring the Barriers to Wind Development in Appalachia (2012)
Several coal-producing states in Appalachia also boast significant wind resources. This report identifies barriers to wind development in Appalachia and suggests methods for overcoming these barriers. Barriers include those related to geography, environmental impacts, policies, and economics. The report concludes that there are many opportunities for wind development in Appalachia, even in its coal-producing counties. This report was produced in partnership with The Mountain Institute.
The Opportunities for Distributed Renewable Energy in Kentucky (2012)
This report assesses the opportunities for developing distributed forms of renewable energy in Kentucky and finds that Kentucky has enough renewable energy resources to provide at least 34% of the state’s electricity generation in 2025. The technologies and related resources examined for this report include solar photovoltaic electricity, solar heating and cooling, small and community-owned wind power, forest biomass, combined heat and power, landfill gas-to-energy, small and low-power hydroelectric, and geothermal heating.
Creating an Economic Diversification Trust Fund (2012)
This report, published by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, examines the creation of a permanent mineral trust fund in West Virginia, which would convert non-renewable natural resources into a source of sustainable wealth that serves the state today and in the future. Income from the fund could be used to diversify the economy, make much-needed investments in infrastructure and human capital, lower future tax burdens, and pay for environmental remediation associated with mineral extraction.
West Virginia Food System: Seasonal Production Expansion and its Impacts (2012)
Despite West Virginia’s mountainous terrain, many farms and much agricultural land exist in the state. Still, much of the produce consumed in West Virginia is imported from out-of-state. This report examines how additional vegetable and fruit production could improve food security, support local economies, and increase revenue for farmers.
Feasibility Study: Poultry Litter Composting in the Potomac Valley Conservation District, West Virginia (2012)
The health of the Chesapeake Bay is directly tied to activities on land within its watershed, and the over-application of poultry litter on farm fields contributes to excess nutrients in the Bay. At the same time, poultry farmers’ livelihoods are challenged by the increasing burden of complying with water quality standards and by finding cost-effective uses for their manure. This feasibility study evaluates one potential solution: a commercial-scale poultry litter composting facility, which would produce environmental benefits by reducing nutrient loads, and which could also create a revenue stream for farmers.
Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure (2011)
Downstream Strategies researched the state of US drinking water and wastewater infrastructure-investment trends, capital needs, operations and maintenance needs, water shortages, and emerging technologies. For several decades, spending has not kept pace with needs, resulting in a widening investment gap, leaky pipes, and interruption of service. Economic Development Research Group out of Boston, Massachusetts used Downstream Strategies’ research to predict direct and indirect effects of the investment gap on the US economy—GDP, jobs, personal income, and exports. This report was commissioned by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Lower New River: State of the Watershed (2011)
The Lower New River watershed in West Virginia is a popular destination for whitewater boaters, rock climbers, and hikers; however, the river and several of its tributaries are impaired by bacteria. This report, written to involve the community in restoring the river, documents water quality issues, analyzes stakeholder input, predicts project feasibility, and focuses on priority tributaries for near-term recommendations.
Measuring Water Quality Improvements: TMDL Implementation Progress, Indicators, and Tracking (2011)
In recent years, tens of thousands of total maximum daily loads, or TMDLs, have been written for impaired waters across the country. TMDLs allocate pollutant loading reductions among pollution sources to bring water bodies into compliance with water quality standards. This report synthesizes recent studies that assess progress in implementing TMDLs and describes indicators that can be used to understand progress in watershed restoration. This research was conducted in collaboration with Kent State University’s Center for Public Administration and Public Policy.
Greenbrier Valley Local Foods: The Possibilities and Potential (2011)
This report evaluates the possibility of expanding the local food system in the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia. Using GIS and information from agricultural experts, it highlights potential niche market opportunities that could bring jobs to the region, create health for its residents, and ensure an adequate food supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and other goods.
Preston County Vision Report (2011)
This report analyzes data collected via surveys and town hall meetings during previous visioning efforts in Preston County. It also serves as a tool for strategic planning and decision-making and a resource for grant applications.
Blue Ridge Mountain Communities Area Watershed Plan—Future of the Mountain: A Common Vision for the Jefferson County Blue Ridge Mountain Communities Area (2010)
The Blue Ridge Mountain Communities Area in Jefferson County, West Virginia lies within the Shenandoah River watershed, a major tributary that affects the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. This common vision document is based on a facilitated public outreach process with the residents and stakeholders, and it lays the foundation for a watershed plan.
Blue Ridge Mountain Communities Area Watershed Plan: Engineering Report (2010)
This engineering report provides recommendations to the Jefferson County Commission and Planning Commission and is a component of the watershed plan for the Blue Ridge Mountain Communities Area. It outlines stormwater best management practices for steep slope watershed management, as well as recommendations for impervious surface cover limits and improved road access.
Plants Not Pipes: Promoting Green Infrastructure and its Side Benefits in Region VI (2010)
This report is part of a broader project to introduce green infrastructure to communities in north-central West Virginia and to provide tools to encourage more widespread use of the techniques. Green infrastructure refers to stormwater management techniques that infiltrate, evapotranspire, and capture and reuse runoff. These techniques include green roofs, rain barrels, and permeable pavement. In addition to reducing the volume and pollution levels of stormwater runoff, green infrastructure provides many side benefits, ranging from reduced maintenance and water utility costs to improved aesthetics and air quality.
The Impact of Coal on the West Virginia State Budget (2010)
This report estimates both the benefits and costs attributable to the West Virginia coal industry for Fiscal Year 2009 and examines the legacy costs associated with past coal industry activity. This project was completed in collaboration with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
The Impact of Coal on the Tennessee State Budget (2010)
This report estimates both the benefits and costs attributable to the Tennessee coal industry for Fiscal Year 2009 and examines the legacy costs associated with past coal industry activity. This project was completed in collaboration with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
The Benefits of Acid Mine Drainage Remediation on the North Branch Potomac River (2010)
After decades of impairment, a successful program initiated by innovative staff at Maryland state agencies has transformed the North Branch Potomac River into a popular recreational river and a driver of local economic development. This remarkable improvement in water quality is the direct result of the installation of eight dosers since 1992, which add alkaline material to the river and its tributaries to treat acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines. This study calculates the local economic benefits generated in these Maryland counties stemming from acid mine drainage remediation on the North Branch, so that policy makers can make informed decisions about future funding to ensure that this remediation continues. These benefits are calculated from a survey of North Branch anglers and boaters and include three types: local spending, the economic impacts of that spending, and the willingness-to-pay even more for recreational experiences.
The Decline of Central Appalachian Coal and the Need for Economic Diversification (2010)
Coal production in Central Appalachia is declining, and this decline will likely continue in the coming decades due to increased competition from other coal-producing regions and sources of energy, the depletion of the lowest-cost coal reserves, and environmental regulations. This report analyzes how each of these factors impacts coal production in Central Appalachia and argues that pending future declines require greater support for economic diversification in the region.
Watershed Based Plan for the Wolf Creek Watershed of the New River (2009)
This watershed-based plan for Wolf Creek will allow incremental Section 319 funds to be spent in the watershed to clean up nonpoint sources of acid mine drainage, sediment, and bacteria. It documents the sources and causes of known impairments, estimates remediation costs, proposes an implementation schedule for remediation, addresses technical and financial needs, and documents an outreach and education program to aid with implementation.
Taxing West Virginia’s Coal Reserves: A Primer (2009)
This primer, written in partnership with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, reviews the Reserve Coal Valuation Model used by the West Virginia State Tax Department to calculate property taxes for coal that is not being actively mined. It provides recommendations to ensure that these taxes are calculated accurately and fairly.
Implementing Total Maximum Daily Loads: Understanding and Fostering Successful Results (2008)
Downstream Strategies collaborated with Kent State University’s Center for Public Administration and Public Policy to research progress in TMDL implementation in Ohio and West Virginia. The study addresses three questions: To what extent are TMDLs being implemented? What factors facilitate progress in the implementation of TMDLs? What steps can be taken to facilitate further progress?
The Long-term Economic Benefits of Wind Versus Mountaintop Removal Coal on Coal River Mountain, West Virginia (2008)
This report examines the long-term local economic benefits and externalities associated with mountaintop removal coal mining versus wind turbine construction on Coal River Mountain in Raleigh County, West Virginia.
State of the Watershed: Elk Headwaters, West Virginia (2008)
The Elk River headwaters in West Virginia provide habitat for a diverse range of species including trout, birds, and rare crayfish. This report analyzes watershed characteristics, compiles water quality data, identifies issues of concern to local stakeholders, and provides recommendations for further analysis and action.
An Economic Benefit Analysis for Abandoned Mine Drainage Remediation in the West Branch Susquehanna River Watershed, Pennsylvania (2008)
This report describes and quantifies the local and statewide economic benefits stemming from remediation of the West Branch Susquehanna watershed in Pennsylvania.
Left Fork Sandy Creek Watershed Investigation (2008)
In 2007, tanker trucks transferred millions of gallons of acid mine drainage treatment sludge to drying pits at the F&M mine. This report documents an investigation into whether the sludge additions threatened the drinking water wells of residents in the Left Fork Sandy Creek Watershed in Preston County, West Virginia.
The Prospects for Landfill Gas-To-Energy Projects in West Virginia (2006)
This report explores the prospects for landfill gas-to-energy projects in West Virginia. Landfill gas is frequently flared, even though it is an energy-rich resource that can be used to generate electricity or heat, thereby reducing emissions. The report identifies barriers to the capture and use of landfill gas at public landfills and provides recommendations for regulatory changes that would increase the number of landfill gas-to-energy projects in the state.
Watershed Based Plan for the Three Fork Creek Watershed in the Tygart Valley River Drainage, West Virginia (2006)
This watershed-based plan for Three Fork Creek will allow incremental Section 319 funds to be spent in the watershed to clean up nonpoint sources of acid mine drainage. It documents the sources and causes of known impairments, estimates remediation costs, proposes an implementation schedule for remediation, addresses technical and financial needs, and documents an outreach and education program to aid with implementation.
Watershed Based Plan for the Lower Cheat River Watershed (2005)
This watershed-based plan for the Lower Cheat River will allow incremental Section 319 funds to be spent in the watershed to clean up nonpoint sources of acid mine drainage. It documents the sources and causes of known impairments, estimates remediation costs, proposes an implementation schedule for remediation, addresses technical and financial needs, and documents an outreach and education program to aid with implementation.
Watershed Based Plan for the North Fork Blackwater River Watershed, West Virginia (2005)
This watershed-based plan for the North Fork Blackwater River will allow incremental Section 319 funds to be spent in the watershed to clean up nonpoint sources of acid mine drainage. It documents the sources and causes of known impairments, estimates remediation costs, proposes an implementation schedule for remediation, addresses technical and financial needs, and documents an outreach and education program to aid with implementation.
Watershed Assessment for the Robinson Run Watershed, Monongalia County, West Virginia (2005)
This report identifies acid mine drainage sources, both point source and nonpoint source, in the Robinson Run watershed. Robinson Run is a small tributary of the Monongahela River that drains approximately 7.7 square miles of Monongalia County. This assessment focuses on acid mine drainage—by far the most significant water quality problem in the watershed. Where data allow, costs of remediating each site are calculated. An implementation schedule and outreach/education program are also proposed.
Water Quality Impacts of Coal Combustion Waste Disposal in Two West Virginia Coal Mines (2005)
This report examines the water quality impacts of two facilities in Preston County, West Virginia on which coal combustion waste was deposited: the Stacks Run Refuse Site Extension and the Albright Site.