Last fall, CRTU continued it's work to improve water quality in Glade Run and Dunbar Creek. On Ct. 24 chapter volunteers placed over 200 tons of alkaline limestone sand from Keystone Lime's quarry at Cranesville, WV at the three treatment sites on the Glade Run headwaters. The alkaline sand neutralizes acid drainage into Glade Run from abandoned coal mine works at the upstream origins of Glade Run, northeast of Chalk Hill. CRTUplaces alkaline sand on a regular twice-yearly schedule (spring & fall) to supplement the effectiveness of our passive anoxic drain treatment system near the mine site. Currently, sand additions are funded by a grant from the state Growing Greener program, with administrative support from the Fayette County Conservation District and Mountain Watershed Association. Funds we raise at our annual banquet also support the Glade Run project.
CRTU's Glade Run Alkaline Sand Addition Project has continued -- sometimes sporadically when funding lagged --for over two decades. Records indicate the chapter made the first additions in 1996, with a grant of $20,500 from the Western Pa Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation and an $800 contribution from Miller Brewing Company's Friends in the Field program.
CRTU, with early partners including Fayette Conservation District, California University of PA, Dunbar Sportsman's Club, The Eberly Foundation, and Fayette Forward, chose to work toward Glade Run's improvement because mine pollution there was degrading Dunbar Creek. Partners' consensus was that even a minimal investment in the Glade Run headwaters could have significant benefits downstream.
Many partners have worked with CRTU over the project's history. The Western Pa Conservancy's Watershed office (Mark Killar) provide technical assistance to calculate how much sand was needed at the various sites to effect improvements. Wharton Township and a local contractor helped improve access to the sites, and the Pa Game commissuion has consistently provided cooperation and direct assistance in access, maintenance and sand manipulation after initial placement.
Biological surveys by California University of PA documented early on that Glade Run supported no life at the project's start. But as the project continued, a series of Cal. U. graduate students documented steady improvement in water quality, the diversity of insect life, and finally, after a transplant of wild brook trout taken from Dunbar Creek's upper main steam, that brook trout were once again spawning in Glade Run. The transfer of upper Dunbar Creek brook trout was accomplished under the auspices of Cal U.'s Dr. William Kimmel and his PFBC Scientific Collector Permit.
A small excerpt from recent water sampling (spearheaded by our late Scott Hoffman) on Little Piney tributary provides an indication of the sand project's impact on water quality downstream. In December 2017, pH above the addition site on Little Piney was 4.7, with an alkalinity value of 10. Downstream, where Little Piney enter Glade Run, its pH was 7.4 and alkalinity registered 20.
In August 2018, the PA DEP proposed to re-designate more than 40 miles of the Dunbar Creek basin, including parts of Glade Run as "Exceptional Value", qualifying the basin for the highest level of vigilance and protection by DEP should future permits be sought for mining, gas development or other disturbances. The re-designation process is ongoing and should be complete in late 2019 or early 2020. DEP noted two decades of improving water quality, and CRTU's reclamation efforts on Glade Run in its 2018 Dunbar Creek Stream Redesignation Evaluation Report.
CRTU thanks all chapter members, partner organizations, agencies, funders and banquet patrons who have supported this worthy project.
Article by Ben Moyer, CRTU President
One of Dunbar Creek's most frequently fished sections now has better habitat and open passage for trout. Last September, CRTU, California University of Pa, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pa Game Commission and Dominion energy cooperated to install a crossvane habitat structure in Dunbar Creek near the upstream end of Betty Knox Road.
Crossvanes are "V" shaped structures with the tapering end upstream. Older habitat-improvement designs taper downstream, including the former jack-dam that impounded the flow near the new structure's location before a flood washed it out in 2014. Since that event, CRTU has sought a way to restore the pool habitat without blocking trout movement upstream.
Jose Taracido, director of California University's Partners for Fish and Wildlife offered CRTU the programs help in designing and installing the crossvane.
"A cross-vane forms an upstream pool but directs the outflowing water to the center of the streambed, diffing another pool downstream" Taracido said. "In the past, designs would shoot the water off to the side and sooner or later would erode the banks and the structure would fail".
A unique feature of cross-vanes is they are passable by fish in either direction. "Water from the upstream pool discharges in a chute instead of a vertical fall," Taracido explained. "All our prjects must enhance connectivity within streams."
Understanding of the importance of "connectivity' has advanced in recent years. Researchers at Penn State studied wild brook trout in tributaries of Loyalsock Creek, Lycoming County. They captured trout, implanted radio-transmitteers, then released the fish and tracked their movements. The team presented their findings at a Wild Trout Summit held at State College in August 2017. " One of the things we learned is that some brook trout are 'movers' and some are 'stayers'," said Tyler Wagner, assistant leader of Penn State's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. "Having both traits in populations favors the resilience of brook trout as a species, but they need to be able to move throughtout the system."
Wagner explained that 'stayer' trout maintain the species in established habitats. But 'movers' are equally important because these fish find new locations that offer a refuge if some force, like a flood or sudden pollution event, causes negative change in the original habitat. CRTU won a $3,000 grant from the Dominion Energy Watershed Mini Grants Program to fund the work.
Taracido's crew hauled in heavy equipment owned by Habitat Forever, part of the Fish and Wildlife partnership, and after two long days of work in rainy September weather, finished the job.
"We appreciate Dominion Energy's interest in and commitment to resource conservation in this region. We could not have attempted this improvement without their support, and we believe we put it to good use,' said Dale Kotowski, then CRTU president.
The Dunbar Creek crossvane was the second major achievement in stream connectivity in which CRTU played a part last summer. In August, Wharton Township installed an innovative Fish-passable culvert over Big Sandy Creek where a perched culvert had formerly blocked trout movement and caused local flooding. CRTU acknowledges members J.D. Ruby's consistent nurturing of that concept toward completion The Fayette County Conservation District reimbursed Wharton Township for most of the culvert's cost through the Low-volume Road Program. Wharton has begun construction of two similar fish-passable culverts on Big Sandy tributaries in the Quebec Run basin.
Article by Ben Moyer, CRTU President