Mill Creek improvements

ROSE VALLEY – What began in 2009 to help stop stream banks from eroding at a site along Mill Creek resulted in a gathering of organizations and volunteers, all of whom made a difference in the environment.

Mill Creek, which runs through Lycoming County, is a tributary to Loyalsock Creek. It enters the larger stream about a mile north of Montoursville.

Weeks ago, a second phase began at a site along the stream and volunteers again gathered, along with representatives from the Lycoming County Conservation District and the Rose Valley-Mill Creek Watershed Association.

The state Fish and Boat Commission provided design services as well as construction oversight.

Materials were needed for the project and the organizations worked together to coordinate them for the project.

Renee Carey, executive director of the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, said her agency helped secure the necessary equipment and operators.

The Darden Community Foundation, through the Williamsport Red Lobster restaurant, donated $1,000 toward the project.

What was needed

When work began, Carey said, certain areas needed a modified mudsill and bank cribs because eroding water is shallow and spreads out more.

“Shallower water is typically warmer since the sun’s rays can penetrate. This can cause ‘thermal pollution’ and again impact the aquatic life since they have specific tolerances for temperature,” Carey said.

Cribs and anchors were constructed at the site.

“Volunteers provided hand labor such as drilling holes in logs, using sledgehammers to pound rebar into the pre-drilled holes, nailing landscaping fabric to log structures, as well as seeding and mulching any disturbed areas of soil,” Carey said.

The structures have had a positive impact on the stream. They help to stabilize the stream banks and increase aquatic habitat.

The second phase involves multi-log vane deflectors.

“The three structures were spaced down the stream, around some of the devices put in during the 2009 construction. We used logs purchased for the project, as well as some root wads that were on the project site, to construct the multi-log vanes,” Carey said.

Placing the structures is expected to help take the pressure off the stream banks and cut the risk of erosion.

Working in the root wads increases the amount of aquatic habitat.

“A lot of aquatic insects progress through a variety of life stages (and) need woody material for survival. The root wads will help provide that,” Carey said.

The wads also will stabilize the stream bank and “bed” the structures, she said, as well as help stop the riparian edge from falling into the stream.

“By decreasing the amount of soil and sediment entering Mill Creek, the project helps maintain and improve the aquatic habitat, allowing insects to flourish and increasing the food source for fish,” Carey said.

It was important to spread the work out over the four years, Carey said, because the improvements needed time to “settle in.”

The work that recently was done helped to take the project to the next step.

It also helped to spread out the work so it didn’t become overwhelming.

All that helps

Carey said the crews have been able to take various pieces of the project and break them out into individual tasks. This way, different organizations can take the lead on different tasks and the work as a whole becomes less overwhelming.

She said each organization helps serves a specific role and has tasks that need to take place.

“The watershed association is working to line up volunteers and is providing lunch for the volunteers. The conservation district worked with the landowner to obtain the necessary permits, coordinated the materials that were needed and will make sure the necessary erosion controls are put in place after construction,” Carey said.

The Fish and Boat Commission designed the project, oversaw construction, coordinated with the equipment operators and provided technical expertise.

The conservancy secured the grant funds to pay for the phys-

ical construction and assisted in project coordination.

More recent work was done by Lycoming College’s Clean Water Institute and Ryan Little, a Montoursville Area High School student.

“The interns from Lycoming College were involved to help them gain a better understanding of physical stream processes and hydrodynamics,”?Carey said. “The students spent the majority of their time this summer assessing streams’ water quality and collecting water quality data from the West Branch (of the) Susquehanna River.”

Little was volunteering as part of his senior project. Carey said he is a senior now and is exploring college majors such as biology, natural resource management, and fisheries management.

“He wanted to learn more about some of the aspects of stream restoration projects and got some real, hands-on experience,” she said.

Fixes all around

The project site has unique features and a history of water quality data, too.

“Lycoming College’s Clean Water Institute has been testing various water quality factors near this site for over 20 years. This provides a long-term record that can be compared to post construction water quality data to track improvements at the site,” Carey said.

The end goal is to improve water quality, not just at the site, but downstream, too.

“Conserving and restoring the water ecosystems in the Susquehanna watershed helps meet the 2009 Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order’s goal to restore and protect the nation’s largest estuary,” she said.

It’s a case of, the less sediment, the better.

“The less sediment that goes in at this site, the less sediment the municipal water suppliers downstream need to deal with,” Carey said. “It’s also less sediment/mud that recreationists – whether fishermen, paddlers, floaters or wildlife watchers – need to deal with. Plus, the less sediment there is, the more aquatic life there will be, both in numbers and variety.”

Totally beneficial

All that’s left to do at the site is a bit of seeding and the planting of trees and shrubs, which will happen this fall.

Virtually everyone can benefit from restoration projects such as this one.

“In my mind, the ‘users’ are broad and include anyone who drinks water from the river – which a lot of downstream communities do – (or who) recreates on the creek or river, or just enjoys looking at it as they drive by,” Carey said.