APPLE GROVE — The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources has been hard at work doing necessary maintenance at the Apple Grove Fish Hatchery.
The facility was constructed in the early 2000’s when the new locks were installed at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needed a new home for the significant amount of dirt and soil removed to construct the locks. They used this excess soil to form what is now the fish hatchery right next door. The hatchery is made up of 34 ponds ranging is size from half an acre to two acres, as well as a raised five-acre reservoir that fills all 34 of the other hatching ponds. After its initial construction by the Corps of Engineers, it was turned over to the WVDNR for operation.
The soil used to construct the ponds was primarily rock and sand; both of which are porous and cannot hold water. Because of this, the ponds needed to be lined with a rubber material. After nearly 20 years under water and years worth of UV rays and temperature swings, the original pond liners are no longer performing their intended duties.
Starting in April crews began the process of changing these old, worn out rubber liners for a new EPDM material.
According to Don Bailey, project engineer for WVDNR: “This new material will hold up much better and longer than the old stuff.”
He then explained that it is far more resistant to thermal degradation, UV damage from the sun, and has a much lower coefficient of thermal expansion, making it ideal for this purpose. EPDM has found its way into several uses as of late: on top of flat roofs and lining landfills.
All said and done, it will likely take about 2.5 million square feet of EPDM rubber to completely line the ponds, taking the better part of a year to complete. Crews first dress the ponds, removing the old rubber and making sure the surface is smooth and ready for covering. Then a dense cloth is laid down to help protect the EPDM from any sharp objects.
After the prep work is down, large sheets of the new rubber is laid out and sealed at the seams with a specialized tape. In order to hold all of this down in the right place, three-foot trenches are dug along the perimeter, in which the edges of the rubber and cloth are laid, and then covered over with dirt and packed down.
“It’s a simple and effective way to anchor the rubber in place,” said Bailey.
This new EPDM rubber is guaranteed from the manufacturer for 20 years, and is expected to last must longer due to its resilience.
“The old stuff aged in a way that it can’t be patched. This new EPDM will still hold up in a way that it can still be patched in 20 years,” stated Bailey.
The facility is home to 43 acres of water. Annually, they hatch, raise, and release large amounts of walleye, sauger, hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, and blue cats. All of these are then released in the wild waters of West Virginia towards the end goal of self sustaining schools of fish for sport and wildlife. The fish raised in the hatchery are not for sale to the public, and are raised solely for stocking waters in West Virginia.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108.