Grants awarded for projects in Sinnemahoning Creek watershed

The state Fish and Boat Commission announced in July that $500,000 has been awarded in grants to develop and implement projects that benefit fishing, boating, and aquatic resources within in 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 state $7.35 million as restitution for environmental damages. The commission received $3.675 million of the settlement.

“The funds received through this damage settlement have been used to improve access, water quality and stream health and to restore stream connectivity,” said commission Executive Director John Arway. “We are pleased to work cooperatively with our conservation partners to make ongoing and lasting improvements in the Sinnemahoning Creek watershed and eligible surrounding counties.”

The projects include:

Lock Haven office of Trout Unlimited, $81,000 for improving brook trout habitat in the Kettle Creek Watershed in Potter County. The grant will help reduce erosion from high priority dirt and gravel roads; stabilize actively eroding streambank; restore forested riparian buffer; train volunteers to assess stream crossing sites at roads to determine potential to be barriers to aquatic organism passage (AOP); design and permit high priority AOP barrier removals.

  • Potter County Conservation District, $88,000 for a fish habitat improvement and stream restoration program. The funds will help improve the natural functions of streams and riparian areas to ensure they are supporting aquatic and riparian wildlife communities. This is accomplished by completing streambank stabilization and fish habitat enhancement using PFBC-approved habitat structures.
  • Potter County Conservation District, $42,000 to open stream corridors through bottomless culverts. An already completed countywide inventory of bridges and culverts requiring replacement or repair will help guide the district staff as they assess and rank the structures using both biological and non-biological criteria. Following completion of the culvert/bridge rankings, staff will replace the top priority structure with a bottomless arch in order to improve passage for aquatic organisms. Monitoring of aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish will be performed before and after replacement of the structure.
  • State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, $58,000 for the Miller Run Access and Viewing Area. The grant will provide a new public access area along the Bennett Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek in Cameron County, information kiosk and parking. Boating access will include a trail to the water and launch ramp for canoes and kayaks.
  • McKean County Conservation District, $100,000 for a fish habitat improvement and stream restoration program. The funds will improve fish and wildlife habitats in streams and riparian buffers; protect public and private property by installing in-stream structures; stabilize eroded streambanks; and plant trees and shrubs in riparian corridors.

McKean County Conservation District, $100,000 for an improved fishing and boating access program. It will allow for the installation of public fishing and boating facilities that are accessible for persons with disabilities at three sites: Marilla Reservoir, Gilbert Reservoir and along Potato Creek at the Donald G. Comes Natural Resource Learning Center.

Toby Creek Watershed Association, $31,000 for abandoned mine drainage treatment systems/mine reclamation. The grant will enable the purchase of chemicals for operation of the Blue Valley AMD Treatment Facility and trout hatchery in Elk County along Brandy Camp Creek, which is a tributary to Toby Creek and the Clarion River. The site also has a trout stocked pond and parking to provide public fishing.

Including the current grant announcement, the commission has awarded nearly $2.1 million in grants from the Sinnemahoning settlement.