Groups updated on efforts to preserve watersheds

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Carol Kafer, president of the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association gives her presentation on the watershed's activities during the Watershed Summit at the Covenant Central Presbyterian Church fellowship hall Wednesday.

Over a dozen groups championing clean water and working to conserve the area’s watersheds spoke at the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s annual Watershed Summit of their year’s work.

The work done was broad and tireless, but “speaks to what we can do with a broad spectrum of folks,” Walt Nicholson, of the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Successful year

Between Loyalsock Creek being named 2018 River of the Year and Williamsport being given the designation of a River Town by the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, many of the organizations are hoping the 2018 will bring in a lot of events.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced that Loyalsock Creek beat out four other state waterways as River of the Year on Monday.

With it comes a $10,000 grant to host events and share the creek’s recreational gems.

“It was a true power partnership and show of love for the Loyalsock,” Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Carol Parenzan said.

Parenzan nominated the creek for the award — a naming that took much notice at Wednesday’s summit.

In the other recent achievement, Williamsport was named a River Town last week. A campaign of reconnecting the community to the Susquehanna River will be a big part of 2018.

The Susquehanna Greenway Partnership’s main goal is to connect all 500 miles of the Susquehanna greenway with surrounding communities. It focuses on trail systems, the river itself and river towns to form the network.

There are now 16 total river towns along the river, Corey BeVier, director of outreach programs for the partnership, said.

The River Walk was a previous partnership success. And that is an achievement given that each trail project can take up to an average of 10 to 14 years to complete, BeVier said.

‘Hit on the nose’

It’s now been over a year since flash floods hit the area by surprise Oct. 21, 2016.

Not only massive parts of the county’s infrastructure were damaged, but many streams also saw lasting impacts.

Most of the groups that presented at the summit had been working on projects in response to the flood since it fell overnight 15 months ago.

Through the year, stream restorations were ongoing along Elk Creek — a stream that starts in Sullivan County and flows into the greater Loyalsock and down in Lycoming County.

In some parts, 10 to 30 feet of the stream bank were gone and some parts of the stream changed the path of flow completely, said Corey Richmond, watershed specialist with the Sullivan County Conservation District.

In Lycoming County, more specific debris removal continued in 2017.

As a result of the rapidly rising waters, many forests, including Loyalsock State Forest, are still bouncing back.

“Loyalsock Forest took a hit on the nose, “ Assistant District Forester Nathan Fice said.

The most impacted area was between routes 87 and 14. Some of the 53 miles of roads that were affected are still closed.

Pleasant Stream Road was one of the most damaged in the area, and Fice said they are looking into making a bypass to get the road further away from the stream to prevent damage like it in the future.

Conserving the

watersheds

Between stream bank restoration, rare hellbender research, coming much closer to studying the state’s unassessed waters and much more, each of the groups at the summit Wednesday played a part in what is the ongoing job of conserving the watersheds, Nicholson said.

Experienced volunteers representing every major watershed that flows into the Susquehanna River were at the summit and each worked throughout the year on projects to better their areas.

The number of native trout streams were increased as was public land through the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy.

A lot of crucial work was done from people using scarce resources in the right ways, Nicholson said.

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