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Canaan Valley Institute Kicking Off Green Infrastructure Program In Berkeley County

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Gail Berrigan
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Canaan Valley Institute
A Canaan Valley Institute-led stream restoration project on Mill Creek, a tributary of Opequon Creek in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The environmentally focused Canaan Valley Institute plans to create what’s being called a “green-collar” workforce in the Eastern Panhandle.

The Davis-based organization is starting a three-year project in Berkeley County to create a green infrastructure program.

The three-year project is meant to reduce pollution in Berkeley County streams like the Opequon Creek and tackle other environmental issues in the area. To do so, it is working with partners like the Berkeley County Stormwater District and Morgantown-based environmental consulting firm Downstream Strategies.

Matt Pennington, a senior consultant with Downstream Strategies, says the ecological restoration industry has seen recent growth, producing 120,000 jobs nationwide in 2014.

“Given the recent impacts of climate change, and some of the financial risks involved with increased hurricanes and storms, this is a huge opportunity not only for West Virginians, but for anyone in United States looking for a good job in a growing industry that truly will have impact not only in your environment, but also in your community,” Pennington said.

The institute is also partnering with Martinsburg-based Blue Ridge Community and Technical College. Part of the project will offer environmental technician students internships and training.

Canaan Valley Institute executive director Kristin Mielcarek says the partnership is a way to connect the area’s environmental needs with students who are interested in the field.

“It just seemed like such a natural fit, with the opportunity to maybe be a pilot program for how this can be translated in other communities as well,” Mielcarek said.

The institute received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to create the program. Organizers hope to find interested high schoolers at Blue Ridge on May 6.

The kick-off event will go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature live demonstrations of various green infrastructure practices. Students can also apply for internships and learn more about the workforce program.

Eastern Panhandle Reporter, ssnyder@wvpublic.org, 304-433-4288

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