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Bucktail Watershed Association - January 2009 Newsletter

$200,000 Released for Sinnemahoning Creek Projects

The first round of grant applications for the funding obtained from the Norfolk Southern Portage Creek chemical spill settlement was submitted in November of this past year. Thirteen grant applications are vying for $200,000 of the grant settlement funds released this year by the Sinnemahoning Stakeholders Committee for grant projects.

Of the $7.35 million in settlement funding, the Department of Environmental Protection received half the funds and the Pennsylvania Fish Commission received half. The funds received by the Pennsylvania DEP were placed into an interest bearing account under the control of a local nonprofit group, Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Council. A local stakeholders committee comprised of local citizens and a representative from each involved agency has been formed to oversee the grant awarding process.

To qualify, grant projects must meet the program criteria and be located in the Sinnemahoning Creek Watershed upstream of the confluence with First Fork.

Thirteen grants were submitted for the 2008 grant round. Grants will be awarded in January of 2009. Funding to begin implementing these projects will become available soon after, allowing watershed improvement projects funded by the Norfolk Southern Settlement to begin as soon as this summer.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has also announced its grant round for the half of the Norfolk Southern settlement money it received. $3.6 million in funding is available for projects in the four-county region of Elk, Mckean, Cameron, and Potter Counties with an emphasis on projects in the Sinnemahoning Creek watershed. Grant applications can be obtained at the Fish Commissions website, www.pfbc.pa.state.us, and grant project submittals are due by February 14, 2009.


Portage Branch Fish Kill
Fish Kill along the Driftwood Branch resulting from June 30, 2006 Norfolk Southern Chemical Spill

 


Wykoff Run Japanese Knotweed On The Run

The Bucktail Watershed Association in cooperation with the Elk State Forest has continued its efforts of eradicating the highly invasive Japanese knotweed from Wykoff Run in the Quehanna Wild Area.

Japanese knotweed was accidentally introduced into the area through road maintenance activities. It was spreading rapidly and beginning to spread in the stream corridor when the Bucktail Watershed Association stepped in. In July of 2007 a work crew met to cut down the knotweed stands. In September the BWA coordinated with to Bureau of Forestry to have Elk State Forest District employees spray the knotweed with a glyphosate-based herbicide, Accord.

Two follow up applications of Accord were applied by Elk State Forest personnel in 2008 and the results have been spectacular. Now Japanese knotweed is all but gone from Wykoff Run.

The Bucktail Watershed Association is planning to build upon this success by beginning to address the Japanese knotweed problem in the stream corridor of the Driftwood Branch.

The Bucktail Watershed Association has applied to the Sinnemahoning Stakeholders Committee for $4,400 of the Norfolk Southern settlement funds that are being released in 2009 to implement its Japanese knotweed program for the upper Driftwood Branch.

The plan is to work from the top of the watershed downstream, eliminating Japanese knotweed from the stream corridor and planting native trees and shrubs in its place. Japanese knotweed will be addressed first in the Driftwood Branch tributaries of Clear Creek and West Creek.

Grant funds will be used for hiring a commercial herbicide applicator to treat the Japanese knotweed. A proven protocol will be used consisting of three treatments, one in September of 2009 followed by a follow-up treatment in June of 2010 and a final treatment on any surviving knotweed in September of 2010.

On larger sites, the BWA will use a portion of the funding to plant native trees and shrubs such as willows, elderberry, silky dogwood, spice bush, and winterberry holly. The Watershed Association also plans on using the site along West Creek as an educational demonstration site. Several large knotweed colonies are located adjacent to the West Creek Rails-to-trails and SR 120. After restoring these sites, the BWA will install educational signage showing before and after photos and educating about how invasive plants destroy habitat.

The Bucktail Watershed Association is looking to expand its Japanese knotweed program by applying for funding from the US Forest Service for restoring other sites on the upper Driftwood Branch stream corridor and then working downstream.



 


Membership Information

Bucktail Watershed Association annual memberships will run out at the end of December 2008. You can renew your membership by using the insert found in this newsletter. Fill out the information and with your check, mail it to BWA, 4 East Sixth Street, Emporium, PA 15834

Don't forget to attend our Annual Winter Membership Meeting on January 6 at 6:30 PM. Besides the presentation of the restoration plan for Sterling Run, we will provide you with an update of activities conducted in the last six months and a preview of what is to come the next sixth months.

Check out the Bucktail Watershed Association's new website. For updates on projects in the watershed or upcoming activities you can find us on the web at www.bucktailwatershed.com.

We would appreciate any ideas or comments you may have for the organization. You can reach us by email at bucktailwatershed@yahoo.com or by contacting BWA chairman Jim Zoschg, Jr. at 486-0705.

On November 8 members from the Bucktail Watershed Association met along the Driftwood Branch in Moatville to plant over 200 willow, silky dogwood, and elderberry cuttings. These were planted in order to develop a riparian buffer along a section of stream currently lacking forest cover. The cuttings will take root next summer and grow to stabilize the stream bank and to provide habitat for numerous different animals. Become involved in similar projects that we plan to do in the future.


Streamside flowers

 


Conservation District Completes 4,600 feet of Stream Habitat Work

This past summer the Cameron Conservation District installed 151 stream habitat structures and stabilized more than 4,600 feet of stream bank, much of which had been previously experiencing severe erosion problems.

Projects were located at thirteen sites on local streams. Work was conducted on Hunts Run, the Driftwood Branch, Clear Creek, and the Sinnemahoning Portage Creek. The projects involved the placement of logs in order to provide stream banks with protection that blends in with the surrounding natural environment.

Besides having a more natural appearance, other advantages of using log structures compared to traditional rock protection are decreased costs and improved fish habitat.

One of the most common techniques utilized by the Cameron County Conservation District's watershed specialist, Todd Deluccia, in this type of restoration work is the log vane deflector. Using single log vane deflectors or vanes constructed from three logs on larger streams, Deluccia addressed numerous erosion problems this past summer.

The log vanes work by installing the logs at an upstream angle. The butt end of the log is built into the stream bank and then angled upstream and down hill slightly. The entire vane is anchored into the streambed by five foot pieces of rebar.

Placing the deflectors at an upstream angle would seem to be counterintuitive. However, during high flows the water breaks off the logs at a ninety-degree angle redirecting the stream's energy towards the center of the stream and creating slow moving water along the formerly eroding stream bank. Often deposition of silt and gravel occurs along the base of the formerly eroding stream bank where these deflectors have been used.

Besides protecting stream banks from the stream's erosive energy, these types of log vane deflectors also provide structure for fish in the stream and a good substrate for aquatic organisms such as stoneflies and mayflies.

In some cases Todd Deluccia builds a double log vane or cross vane. This structure is comprised of two upstream angled log vanes on opposite sides of the stream that meet in the middle to form an upside U' or V.' Besides helping ease erosive energy on both stream banks, both sides of the vane are directing the stream's energy toward a point on the downstream end of the structure in the middle of the stream.

The result of the log cross vane is the formation of a nice scour pool that makes excellent trout habitat. The fish have a deep pool with the cover of the logs right at their fin tips, a perfect combination for any good trout lair. Todd's most favorite habitat structure is the log crib wall. Crib walls are built in deep pools and protect banks from erosion by armoring the banks with a paralleling log wall. The wall is anchored to the bank by perpendicular logs that are built into the bank and serve as a surface onto which to pin the log wall.

Besides providing excellent protection against stream bank erosion, crib walls are built in a manner that forms an undercut bank, something that makes any wild trout fisherman excited. These habitat structures usually form deep pools and with the artificial undercut bank created by the crib wall they become real trout magnets.

Next year Todd Deluccia is looking at conducting more habitat work in Cameron County. Financing is expected to be obtained from funds associated with the Norfolk Southern spill settlement and from Growing Greener Grant funding. He has already begun planning habitat projects for the wild trout section of the Sinnemahoning Portage Creek affected by the 2006 chemical spill.


First Fork
The First Fork of the Sinnemahoning Creek, part of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River Watershed

 


Sterling Run Acid Mine Drainage Cleanup

Irresponsible strip mining for coal during the 1950's and 1960's left a portion of Cameron County scarred and polluted. Sterling Run, a beautiful tributary to the Driftwood Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek, is still degraded from past surface mining activity today, more than fifty years later.

Although a few trout can be found in Sterling Run, its aquatic insect life is quite impaired. Three of its tributaries, May Hollow Run, Portable Run, and Finley Run have sections of stream completely devoid of trout as a result of the acid mine drainage influx. All three are beautiful mountain streams, heavily forested with waterfalls and cascades in their middle reaches and beaver meadows in their headwaters.

All three support thriving wild trout populations upstream of mining areas. Finley Run is even listed as a Class A wild brook trout fishery. However, when the mine water enters the streams it carries with it a heavy load of acid and dissolved toxic metals that turns these streams into inhospitable environments. Aquatic life then disappears until farther downstream in the Sterling Run watershed where conditions improve somewhat and trout can find marginal living conditions.

It is a sad story of abuse that has left what would otherwise be a thriving wild trout fishery in shambles. Unfortunately, this story is not unique to Cameron County. Reckless mining activities have left thousands of miles of streams polluted in Pennsylvania and tens of thousands of stream miles polluted throughout the Appalachians.

The good news for Sterling Run is that a clean up is being planned and some aspects of the Sterling Run mine drainage cleanup are already being implemented. Starting several years ago the Cameron County Conservation District began conducting assessments of the acid mine drainage in Sterling Run. The Conservation District has used this information to develop a restoration plan for the watershed and is ready to begin implementing the restoration plan.

On Tuesday January 6 at the public meeting being coordinated by the Bucktail Watershed Association, the plan for the acid mine drainage cleanup and restoration of Sterling Run will be presented. On hand will be officials from the Department of Environmental Protection's Moshannon District Mining Office along with representatives from the Cameron County Conservation District.

Todd Deluccia, Watershed Specialist for the Cameron County Conservation District, will present information on the various passive treatment systems to be constructed in May Hollow and Portable Runs. Some of these projects could begin to be implemented as early as this summer (2009).

Employees of the DEP Moshannon District Mining Office will present a slide presentation of current abandoned mineland reclamation associated with remining activities in Sterling Run. The slideshow will have update photos of the progress on Allegheny Enterprise's current operations in Finley Run.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 on January 6 in the Cameron County Courthouse courtroom. Come out and see the unveiling of the restoration plan for Sterling Run and bring a friend!



Annual Membership Meeting January 6

The annual Bucktail Watershed Association winter membership meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 6 at 6:30 pm in the Cameron County Courthouse courtroom.

This year's winter membership meeting will be especially interesting. The plan for restoring the acid mine drainage polluted streams in Sterling Run will be presented to the public at the meeting. Mike Smith from the Department of Environmental Protection's Moshannon District Mining Office and Todd Deluccia of the Cameron County Conservation District will be on hand to present the restoration.

Following the presentations there will be a question and answer period concerning the Sterling Run restoration before we start into the membership meeting.

All members are encouraged to attend, and the general public is also invited.

Make it a point to come to the winter membership meeting and bring a friend. We have a lot planned for 2009. With your help we can make a difference in the Driftwood Branch and First Fork watersheds.

Also, remember to mail in your 2009 membership dues. Last year's membership runs out on January 31, 2008.


Snowy Stream

 


 

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