Members of 15 organizations and concerned citizens met to discuss what the future holds for the Susquehanna River watershed at an annual summit hosted by the local chapter of Trout Unlimited last Wednesday.
Environmentalists gathered to outline successful projects their organizations have completed in the last year and share information – an invaluable resource for the many grassroots organizations focused on keeping local lakes and rivers pristine.
“This summit lets everyone come together and touch base, discuss what problems we’re seeing and present some of the research we’ve gathered over this past year,” said Joe Radley, who is on the board of directors of the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
“Most watershed organizations are entirely comprised of volunteers, so we try to share information and pool resources whenever possible,” he added.
Many groups focused their efforts around repairing damage caused by the flooding that occurred at the end of 2011. Work has been done to repair stream beds, fortify banks and restructure the flood plain all across Lycoming County.
One such project was on Black Hole Creek at the White Deer Golf Complex in Montgomery.
“We were able to put back the natural flood plain elevation, remove built-up sediment and put in new plants,” explained Megan Lehman, of the Lycoming County Planning Commission.
Aside from reducing golf course maintenance by planting non-invasive greenery, the project allowed workers to implement best management practices that will improve stream channel stability and water quality for many years to come, according to Lehman.
The Black Hole Creek site may be the first stream that is not on farm land to receive nutrient credits. Lehman said the paperwork had been filed to apply for credits, and the commission is waiting to hear back from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
However, some environmentalists fear a lack of funding to maintain the structures used to restructure a stream may make all the volunteers’ hard work useless a few years down the line.
“Traditionally, it hasn’t been difficult to find money to do projects, but it’s near impossible to find money to maintain those projects,” said Russ Cowles, of the Lycoming Creek Watershed Association.
“It’s not reasonable to place structures in a stream and not expect to maintain those structures,” he added.
Bill Worobec, a state Fish and Boat Commissioner with the agency’s North Central Region, which helps to fund many stream and flood plain reconstruction projects, warned that funding for several programs likely will be cut in the new budget for 2013.
“We get no money from the state general fund, so you’re likely to see some disappointment in the coming year. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be the end (of the budget cuts), only the beginning,” Worobec said.
“The best thing you can do to help is to buy fishing licenses and buy multi-year licenses,” he added.