HARRISBURG, Pa. (January 18) – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) today announced nearly $550,000 in grants to develop and implement projects that benefit fishing, boating and aquatic resources within Cameron, Elk, Potter and McKean counties.
The funding is available through a 2007 settlement agreement with Norfolk Southern as restitution for environmental damages from a June 30, 2006 train derailment in rural Norwich Township, McKean County. Under the settlement, Norfolk Southern agreed to pay the Commonwealth $7.35 million as restitution for environmental damages. The PFBC received $3.675 million of the settlement.
The funds received through this damage settlement have been used to improve public fishing and boating access, fish habitat, water quality and stream health and to restore stream connectivity through the removal of barriers to fish movement such as dams and culverts.
The external projects funded today total approximately $550,000 and include:
- Cameron County Conservation District, $99,720 – “May Hollow 49 AMD Discharge Passive Treatment System Expansion.” As part of the effort to restore the historic wild Brook Trout fishery within the Sterling Run watershed, expansion of this passive water treatment facility will remediate increased acid mine discharge flows from an abandoned coal mine to May Hollow Run, which is a major tributary to Sterling Run.
- Cameron County Conservation District, $200,000 – “Restoration of the Upper Jerry Run Watershed to Benefit Native Eastern Brook Trout.” Upper Jerry Run is a tributary to the main stem of Sinnemahoning Creek. The objectives of the project are as follows: 1.) Eliminate significant erosion & sedimentation from adversely impacting the stream along six miles of dirt & gravel roadway through paving with Driving Surface Aggregate (DSA); 2) Elevate pH of the stream using DSA road paving consisting of sand-sized, compacted limestone; 3) Reconnect 1.25 miles of stream habitat by replacing a perched culvert to restore fish passage for naturally reproducing Brook and Brown Trout; 4) Stabilize eroding streambanks at three locations; 5) Improve in-stream habitat through the addition of large woody debris; 6) Work with the PA Department of Environmental Protection to upgrade the watershed to Exceptional Value for added protection; 7) Promote as a demonstration project by providing signage, publicity and training outreach.
- Clean Water Institute at Lycoming College, $50,000 – “Restoration Plan for the Eastern Hellbender Salamander in the Sinnemahoning Creek Watershed.” Contaminants from the train wreck adversely impacted the Eastern Hellbender population in the watershed. Perform species status assessment through eDNA analysis and visual searches of suitable habitat to detect species presence. Identify suitable habitat for enhancement using GIS, water quality monitoring, assessment of food abundance (especially crayfish) and field observations. Construct and place artificial nesting boxes for Hellbenders into suitable habitat and monitor them for species occupancy and breeding. Develop a habitat enhancement plan.
- Jay Township, Elk County, $50,000 – “Kersey Run Streambank Restoration.” In accordance with an existing stream channel evaluation and repair plan, implement in-stream habitat and streambank stabilization structures on multiple properties to repair existing erosion and minimize future erosion, and channel deposition of sediment and gravel. The proposed measures are intended to prevent or minimize property damage resulting from flooding and to improve water quality and physical habitat for wild and stocked trout.
- McKean County Conservation District, $67,130 – “Fish Habitat Improvement and Stream Restoration Program.” Improve fish and wildlife habitats in streams and riparian buffers with a primary focus on improving habitat for aquatic Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) identified in the “2015 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan” by installing in-stream structures, stabilizing eroded streambanks and planting trees and shrubs in riparian corridors on at least six different properties.
- Potter County Conservation District, $40,730 – “Fish Habitat Improvement and Streambank Stabilization.” Improve natural functions of streams and riparian areas to ensure they are supporting aquatic and riparian wildlife communities. Complete streambank stabilization and fish habitat enhancement using PFBC-approved in-stream habitat structures on at least six different properties.
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Northeast Fishery Center, $40,950 - “Long-term Brook Trout Monitoring of Reference Sites.” Continue annual wild Brook Trout population and water quality monitoring on ten streams within the Sinnemahoning Creek watershed at established reference sites to assess population status and trends in locations with relatively little anthropogenic impact. Evaluate impacts to wild trout populations from changes in stream flow and temperature. Evaluate brook trout size composition and competition from wild brown trout. Use long-term data sets to develop a statistical model describing factors governing brook trout population dynamics in north-central PA streams, which will help PFBC develop conservation strategies for management of wild trout. These reference sites can be used as controls for comparison to future trout habitat enhancement projects to evaluate effectiveness.
With the addition of the current grant announcements, the PFBC has awarded over $3 million in grants to external partners from the Sinnemahoning Creek watershed settlement fund since the start of the grant program in 2008.