August 27, 2021
Environmental Quality Board
P.O. Box 8477
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477
Dear Environmental Quality Board,
We are writing to express our enthusiastic support of the proposed redesignation of 47.5 stream-miles in the Dunbar Creek basin, including Dunbar Creek main stem and tributaries Limestone Run, Irishtown Run, and those parts of Glade Run within State Game Lands 51, Fayette County, as Exceptional Value (EV).
The Dunbar Creek basin’s improving water quality, wild character, scenic appeal, and the fact that two-thirds of the basin is protected within State Game Land 51, make the basin an irreplaceable environmental, recreational, and economic asset to Fayette County and southwestern Pennsylvania.
Our organization has worked to improve the water chemistry, trout habitat, and the aesthetic appeal of the Dunbar Creek basin since 1998. Since that date we have invested nearly a half-million dollars and an immense contribution of volunteer time and effort of our members to construct an anoxic limestone treatment system to moderate acid mine drainage degradation of Glade Run tributary, we have carried on a regular program of alkaline limestone sand treatment of Glade Run and two of its tributaries to boost alkalinity in the basin, we have helped remove obstructions to aquatic organism passage, and we annually clean up litter along Dunbar Creek main stem.
In addition, we work cooperatively with our partners Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Mountain Watershed Association to seek further improvements in the basin through regular water sampling and advocating future projects to remediate acid mine drainage degradation. Consequently, we feel compelled and justified in offering comment on the proposed redesignation.
Few places, perhaps none, in western Pennsylvania or bordering states offer the kind of experiences available to trout anglers within the Dunbar Creek basin. There, it is possible to fish miles of mountain stream in a wild setting, in pursuit of native, wild brook trout. These fish are a natural element of the place, not a far-off hatchery. Their presence throughout nearly the entire basin testifies to the watershed’s unique recreational, biological, and economic value.
We know of anglers who travel from long distances for the experience of fishing for Dunbar Creek basin’s wild native trout. Their visits contribute to the vitality of an otherwise challenged local economy, and their reports back home elevate the image of the Dunbar community and Fayette County.
In summary, we support and recommend redesignation of 47.5 stream-miles in the Dunbar Creek basin, Fayette County, as proposed, as Exceptional Value (EV) waters.
Thank you for considering our thoughts.
Chestnut Ridge Chapter, Trout Unlimited
“The Chestnut Ridge Chapter regrets to inform members, supporters, and partners that all meetings and events are suspended for the foreseeable future. We look forward to resuming our ambitious educational and fund-raising events at the earliest possible time, when the Covid crisis presents less of a threat to health and safety. In the meantime, some of our conservation projects and nursery functions can continue because these take place in remote areas, and/or can be done with a small number of members at safe social distance.”
Chestnut Ridge Chapter, Trout Unlimited
Friends of Jim Tobal are offering a youth trout fishing experience as a tribute to the long-time area educator, outdoorsman, and conservationist. Jim passed away in 2020. The fishing opportunity for all kids 12 years old and under will span several weeks, beginning on April 24 in that portion of Redstone Creek Flowing through the South Union Township Community Park near Hopwood. The group has asked that children be accompanied by an adult. Mike Tobal, Jim's brother, is the event's primary organizer.
There is not cost for Kids to participate in the fishing experience, and no advance registration is required. Some tackle will be available but adults are asked to equip young participants if possible.
Joe Gudac Jr, CRTU Director (left) delivered the Framed Print to the Orvis Store, Pittsburgh today (11-25). Garry Clouner, Orvis Manager, (right) and Rob Ranko, Asst. Manager (middle) was overwhelmed by the gift. Dave Welling, CRTU Director, did a fantastic job on the framing. The framed print was presented in appreciation to the Pittsburgh Orvis Store for naming CRTU to receive the proceeds from it's 2020 Orvis Give Back Days.
The Orvis Company’s Pittsburgh store selected the Chestnut Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited, headquartered at Uniontown, to receive the proceeds from its 2020 Orvis Give Back Days. Garry Clouner, Orvis Pittsburgh manager, traveled to Ohiopyle to present Chestnut Ridge TU representatives with a check for $2,172.00.
Orvis is a major retailer of fly-fishing equipment and other outdoor gear. Its core values and mission statement commit the company to protecting the natural resources that support outdoor recreation. Give Back Days enables Orvis to channel financial support to deserving organizations working to protect and restore nature within each store’s market region, and to encourage its customers to share in that effort.
During Give Back Days, Orvis directs $10 from customers’ larger item purchases to the recipient organization and encourages the customer to make an additional donation to the same cause.
“A majority of our customers are from the Pittsburgh area, but they come up here to the beautiful Laurel Highlands to fish,” Clouner said. “We wanted to give something back to the natural resources in this area, and when we learned about all the positive efforts of Chestnut Ridge TU, we knew it was a natural partnership.”
Clouner said many of his customers were familiar with Chestnut Ridge TU’s projects but did not know the group responsible. He noted the access steps down the steep slope from the Great Allegheny Passage to the Youghiogheny River near Confluence, a long history of improving water quality in the Dunbar Creek basin, and operation of a trout nursery in the Youghiogheny Dam tailrace. The group uses fish grown in the nursery to support youth fishing experiences, and releases hundreds of trophy-size trout in the Yough for the public’s enjoyment.
“Now we have a working relationship with Chestnut Ridge, and we want to grow it in the future,” Clouner said. “We know the Covid pandemic forced the organization to cancel its popular banquet last spring, which is its major fund-raising event of the year. We hope Give Back Days will help continue the many projects Chestnut Ridge TU normally funds through the support of its banquet guests.”
The Give Back Days drive was nationwide, through which all 69 Orvis retail stores supported some local conservation effort. Clouner said the Pittsburgh store placed among Orvis’ top 10 stores in Give Back Days dollars collected.
Garry Clouner (left) manager of Orvis Pittsburgh displays a chart of Give Back Days dollars donated by Orvis and its customers to the Chestnut Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Accepting Orvis Pittsburgh’s check for $2,172.00 are Chestnut Ridge TU representatives (left to right) J.D. Ruby, Paul Gulya, and Joe Gudac Jr
Orvis Pittsburgh fishing experts are eager to assist in anyway possible. After you review Fly Fishing 101, call or swing by Orvis Pittsburgh for a free map and we’ll be happy to help you get on the water! There are many ways to continue learning fly fishing. Click the link below to learn more. Don’t Forget about your free TU Membership. The most important thing to remember is, HAVE FUN!
Coal once brought prosperity to Fayette County. It also left a legacy of degraded streams, useless as water sources, uninhabitable by fish, a turn-off to tourists, and costly to restore.
Abandoned or poorly reclaimed mine sites unleashed acid, iron, aluminum and other pollutants into surrounding watersheds. Left as they are these sites also drain the county’s potential to draw visitors seeking out attractive places.
A remote knob in the wooded span between Dunbar and Ohiopyle was especially vulnerable to such taint. From there, headwater streams flow west into Dunbar Creek and the lower Youghiogheny River, and east into Jonathan Run in Ohiopyle State Park, which enters the Yough just above the Bruner Run takeout used by whitewater boaters. Two spates of coal surface-mining, first in the 1950s before mining regulation, and again in the early ‘80s when post-mining reclamation by the mine operators failed, left the knob scarred and leaching pollution into both streams’ headwaters.
Scientists from California University of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Studies program documented poor water quality and verified in the mid-1990s that no aquatic life inhabited Glade Run, a major tributary to Dunbar Creek originating near the site. The potential of the Glade Run/Dunbar Creek basin as a trout fishery and regional tourism asset was seriously depressed.
But hard work, technical know-how, and money can correct past wrongs. That’s about to happen in the Dunbar Creek headwaters.
In mid-August, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) notified Stoy Excavating of Somerset that the firm could begin construction of an $800,000 acid-mine-drainage treatment facility atop the old mine footprint near Glade Run’s source. Stoy had won the conservancy’s bid on the project, funded jointly through the state Dept. of Environmental Protection’s Growing Greener program, and the Dept. of Community Economic Development.
Covering about eight acres, the system required grading, land re-contouring, and uses almost 3,000 tons of limestone, high in calcium carbonate, to treat the mine discharge. High-grade limestone neutralizes acid and enables harmful metals like iron and aluminum to drop out in settling basins, instead of flowing into streams. About half the limestone had to be buried in an “anoxic limestone drain,” in which polluted discharge flows through a limestone bed in the absence of air.
“In neutralizing mine acid over the long-term, it’s important to not have the limestone and water exposed to oxygen during their chemical interaction,” said Greg Schaetzle, WPC watershed project manager. “Oxygen causes a non-reactive scale to form on the limestone surface so that it can’t react with the acid. Eventually this clogs the system.”
Once the acid is neutralized, harmful iron and manganese suspended in the water can “drop out” or precipitate. A settling basin and man-made wetland intercept this pollution as the last step in the process. Suspended iron caused the infamous orange color in many Fayette County streams that older residents will remember, before reclamation efforts began in the county.
A separate part of the system employs an exposed bed of crushed limestone to remove aluminum, which is highly toxic to fish.
Stoy expects to complete the work by Friday, Nov. 6. Water quality downstream into Glade Run, Dunbar Creek and the Youghiogheny River should begin to improve immediately after Stoy employees open the outlet valves and the system goes on-line.
Schaetzle acknowledged a long history of local groups, notably the Chestnut Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited, working to address mine-acid pollution in Glade Run.
“Trout Unlimited’s Chestnut Ridge Chapter, headquartered in Uniontown, built the first, though smaller, facility to treat a different discharge from this mine site in 2003,” he said. “We’re continuing in this effort to which a lot of volunteer time has already been committed.”
Since 1998, Chestnut Ridge TU has also done “first-aid” on Glade Run by dosing the stream’s headwaters twice annually with finely crushed limestone in three locations. The group funds the treatment with grants, receipts from its annual banquet, and a memorial gift from late member Scott Hoffman’s family. The new WPC facility could reduce or eliminate the need for the limestone dosing treatment by neutralizing pollution at its source.
Schaetzle views the Dunbar Creek basin as a regionally significant natural resource, with over 50 miles of coldwater streams, most of which flow across public land—State Game Land No. 51. He said the conservancy has applied for Growing Greener funding to build another treatment facility for previously undiscovered discharges to Glade Run, and a similar system near the source of Jonathan Run, once a popular fishing stream that could no longer support trout after the mining operation in the 1980s. The Jonathan Run project is already in the design phase.
“Part of our mission at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is to improve water quality across western Pennsylvania,” Schaetzle said. “Because of its unique landscape and outdoor recreation potential, the Laurel Highlands are a focal area for our restoration work. Our hope, together with our partners, is to make Glade Run and the Dunbar Creek watershed all that it can be again as an asset for the Dunbar community and the whole Laurel Highlands region. When you have public access to such a large area with clean, cold water, it’s a wonderful boost to the community’s pride and appeal.”
Ben Moyer is President of Chestnut Ridge Trout Unlimited, a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.
At the Pennsylvania Council Trout Unlimited’s annual meeting held virtually on Sept. 19, Chestnut Ridge Chapter was honored with the Council’s Best Website Award, recognizing CRTU as having the best website among the state’s 49 local chapters.
“This is an amazing achievement for our chapter and the volunteer expertise and hard work that go into our website,” said CRTU president Ben Moyer. “It’s especially meaningful because our website had been dormant for some time, but a committed effort over the past year-and-a-half to overcome administrative hurdles, server and domain conflicts, and design fresh content brought the site back to life.
“The Chestnut Ridge site is full of informative content, is appealing and user-friendly,” remarked the competition judges.
Moyer credited CRTU member Carol Gulya for the site’s rejuvenation and continued fresh upkeep.
“Carol is always prompt to post current items about the chapter’s activities, and she constantly employs new ideas that keep the site fresh.”
Look for even more new content on the site as CRTU, hopefully, returns to its ambitious schedule of conservation and outdoor education activities after the threat of pandemic have passed.
2020 CRTU Annual Meeting takes place November 11 at 7:00pm. The Nomination Committee has announced the following individuals for the 2021 open positions.
President: Ben Moyer (1 year term)
Vice President: Dennis Croft (1 year term)
Secretary: John Dolan (1 year term)
Treasurer: Bernie Manyak (1 year term)
Director: John Gulya (3 year term)
Director: J.D. Ruby (3 year term)
Director: Joseph Gudac Jr (3 year term)
Nominations for a position are accepted until the start of voting for that position. A nomination will only be valid if the candidate declares orally at the meeting, or in writing or by electronic mail prior to the meeting, that the candidate is willing to take office if elected
On May 24, CRTU teamed with East End Community Center in Uniontown to offer a fishing experience to kids who had never gone fishing before.
Chestnut Ridge TU stocked a remote pond inside Ohiopyle State Park with trout raised in the organization’s nursery in the Yough Dam tailrace.
S&S Bait and Tackle of Chalk Hill offered kids’ rod-and-reel combos to CRTU at a discount for the East End Community event and future kids’ outings. Wilderness Voyageurs Outfitters of Ohiopyle provided life-jackets to the kids just in case someone took an unplanned dip in the pond.
Trout Unlimited volunteers Ben Moyer, John Gulya, Paul Gulya, Carol Gulya, Dennis Croft, and John Kreuzer strapped on the kids’ life-vests and spaced the youngsters around the pond to reduce the chance of tangles, which was somewhat successful. After a lot of patient coaching, every one of the 12 participating youngsters caught at least one trout.
On June 7, Twenty nine anglers joined us for CRTU Day at Beaver Creek. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was provided, and all enjoyed the fishing and food.
All levels of fly fishermen and fisherwomen took part in the activities. Everyone shared flies and stories about their experiences fishing the Laurel Highlands, we even had a bear sighting.
Every April, CRTU conducts stream clean up on Dunbar Creek. This year 16 participants collected 45 bags of trash.