PAINT CREEK, W.Va. — The Paint Creek Watershed Association is once again receiving yearly funding of $5,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection to help with operating costs, but the president of the association says that only covers a portion of managing the creeks’ upkeep.

Association President Shay Couch said the $5,000 awarded to them every year from the DEP’s WV Stream Partners Program goes towards things like bleach, insurance, electric and gas bills, and must be used as DEP’s guidelines allow.

“We use it to update some of our signages along the creek where we have signs telling people about everything,” Couch said. “It’s specific details that you have to use it the way they tell you basically.”

He said anything extra the association gets to support Paint Creek is through fundraising and donation.

Couch said any little bit of funding, however, helps the association that formed around 20 years ago with the sole intention of cleaning up trash out of the creek and protecting its habitat, despite being faced with threats to the stream that was out of their control.

“Before, you couldn’t catch a fish in Paint Creek and now it’s a viable trout stream, well, it was until the big chemical wreck two years ago,” he said.

Testing and cleanup efforts have been ongoing in Paint Creek since the August 25, 2022 tractor trailer crash on the West Virginia Turnpike, which dumped 3,000 gallons of Empigen, a hazardous material commonly used in cleaning products, into the stream.

The Kanawha County Commission was recently granted a settlement for the chemical spill case at Paint Creek after filing a lawsuit against the trucking company involved.

The Watershed Association will be using the funds from the settlement to install stream structures in the creek intended to further help protect the creek and its inhabitants. The county commission will hold the additional settlement funds for the association until the money is needed.

Couch said despite the truck crash setting the creek back a pace, the association is now looking forward to a new year of progress and fundraising.

One of its major fundraising events is its ” Take a Kid Fishing Day” that takes place in May. Couch said the event was organized nearly 20 years ago as well, he said, when the creek was truly starting to see its glory days.

“You could actually celebrate catching a fish in Paint Creek, because before they started the watershed association and did all of the clean up, you couldn’t catch anything in the creek, and we do all of that by fundraising and donations,” Couch said.

He said the event not only goes towards the health and wellbeing of Paint Creek, but it also inspires kids to learn how to fish.

“One thing we’ve done every year when we’ve had the kids day is every kid leaves with a brand new fishing pole, and everything that day is free, hotdogs, snow cones,” said Couch.

Take a Kid Fishing Day is held at the Ash Branch Fishing Pier located on Paint Creek approximately 2 miles from the turnpike Exit 74. It’s typically held in the latter part of May, but you can check their Facebook Page at Paint Creek Watershed Association, Inc. to find out more details as it gets closer to the time of the event.