Spring is here and local conservation organizations are gearing up for spring cleanups of local waterways.
Last week, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced recipients of its Growing Greener Plus grant program, which provides funds to restore degraded waterways and protect local waters from non-point source pollution.
This year, more than $20 million has been awarded to 12 projects in southwestern Pennsylvania. Two projects each in Washington and Fayette counties received funding. Greene County also received a grant.
The Township of North Franklin is using its second Growing Greener grant, in the amount of $262,500, for the construction phase of a shoreline restoration project.
“Basically, the goal of the project is to clean up Chartiers Creek,” said Erin Dinch, director of planning and development. “It’s considered an impaired waterway – not because of chemical pollution, but because of… water runoff.”
Last year, the township secured funding for the project’s engineering and permits.
The township will cut the banks of the creek at a better angle and provide a buffer zone to eliminate runoff pollution. Dinch said the project is still in its permitting phase, but she hopes construction will begin next year.
In Morris Township, construction of the Ten Mile Creek Restoration Project is expected to begin in 2023. Currently, the Washington County Watershed Alliance is in the development phase of the project.
“The project will include shoreline restoration to address some steep banks and erosion issues,” said Jennifer Dann, watershed specialist for the Washington County Conservation District and WCWA treasurer.
“Our hope is that it will make it more secure so the edges don’t collapse and (people) can access the stream more securely.”
Habitat structures will also be added to the waterway. Locals like to fish Ten Mile Creek during trout season, and Dann said adding habitat structures will allow fish to survive longer in the cold Pennsylvania waters.
“We’ve been working to get this project off the ground for about a year,” Dann said, noting how valuable grant programs are for conservation efforts. “$156,000 is not something we can easily get through donations. This project would not have been able to move forward if we had not obtained this funding.
She said WCWA was working with a partner to finalize the designs. She hopes to secure permits and bids for construction this year, so restoration of Ten Mile Creek can begin in 2023.
“We really hope to not only see the water quality improve…but we also want everyone to enjoy the creek and have access to it,” she said.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, based in Fayette County, received two grants this year: $30,891 for its Back Creek restoration project and $368,539 for a remediation project in Stewart Township.
Shoreline erosion in Saltlick Township has begun to threaten private property infrastructure, said Greg Schaetzle, the reserve’s watershed manager. The tributary from this property empties into Indian Creek.
Schaetzle said WPC is in the licensing phase for this bank restoration project. When construction begins next summer, the shoreline will be restored and fish habitat structures will be put in place to reduce erosion and improve water quality.
Water quality improvements are also underway in Stewart Township, where the WPC is working with partners on a mine drainage treatment project.
“This site – we call it Spruell – has a history of mine drainage impacts,” said Schaetzle, who noted that the waterway most affected by runoff is Glade Run, which directly feeds Dunbar Creek.
“The mine drainage discharges add low pH water, iron, manganese and aluminum to Glad Run,” he said. “By completing the designs and completion of the mine drainage system, we are able to neutralize these metals…and improve water quality.”
The Spruell site is near State Game Land 51, a remote section of Fayette County, but Schaetzle said the waters affected by mine drainage are heavily fished.
“Any efforts we collectively undertake to improve water quality will only increase the recreational value of the creek,” he said.
The acid seep remediation project is currently in its design phase. Once designs are finalized and permits are approved, Schaetzle said the WPC and its partners will begin construction of the sixth and seventh drain management treatment systems.
Construction is expected to begin in fall 2023.
The Greene County Conservation District will use its $111,578 grant to complete a stream stabilization and fencing project at Willis Farm in Cumberland Township.
Growing Greener winners have three years to spend the grant funds.