The 333rd Army Reserve Engineering Company has been busy over the last 2 weeks at Plunketts Creek. The soldiers are working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy on a project to reconnect Plunketts Creek to its floodplain at State Game Lands 134. An earthen berm was used in the past at the site to protect the birds being raised by the Game Commission when the site was a propagation farm.
After a few equipment issues, the soldiers got underway and have the berm removed at the farm site. They are working on the final grade and expect to begin hydroseeding (spraying a mix of seed, mulch, and water instead of spreading seed by hand and then covering with hay or straw) and installing the jute mat (it looks like a grid of coconut fiber twine and adds stabilization until the seeds germinate and grasses and flowers start to grow) in the next couple of days.
The material from the berm is going one of two places. Some of the material is being hauled by the soldiers up to a road project on Camp Mountain Road. Material will also be stockpiled on the farm site for future by the Game Commission.
Camp Mountain Road has become entrenched, the driving surface of the road is lower than the berm along the side. On dirt and gravel roads it’s especially important to let rain and snow melt drain off the road not run down the road. As water runs down the road it picks up more sediment. The sediment can wash into streams resulting in water quality problems. By bringing the driving surface back up and adding drainage the road will have less impacts on water quality and people using the road will have a smoother trip.
The material being stockpiled on site will be out of the floodway. It will also be hydroseeded and vegetation will be allowed to grow on it to keep the dirt from washing off. The Game Commission can use this material on future road improvement projects in the area.
Rainstorms on Thursday, August 12, brought damaging winds to the area. Trees were down on the roads and blocking neighbors’ driveways. The soldiers who were at the farm recognized the downed trees would prevent the soldiers hauling material and those at the road site from returning to the farm site. They quickly got their equipment organized and began removing trees from the road and opened driveways in the immediate area. The Sergeant reported they removed 30 trees.
Residents in the area commented, “The Army was wonderful to the community of Proctor…They didn’t even blink an eye and were out helping clear the roadways and even helping residents clear trees!”
While the rain provided an opportunity for the soldiers to work on different skills than they had been and allowed them to practice a quick pivot in mission, it also made things too wet to haul material to the road site for the rest of the day. The soldiers are working with the wet conditions and using it as an opportunity to train some of the newer soldiers on how changing site conditions impact operations.
On Friday, August 13 Lieutenant Colonel Reuben Trant visited the site to review the work and gain a better understanding of the training underway. The project is being undertaken through Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program. The program is designed to assist local communities with improvement projects while also providing the military with training opportunities that build their skills and ready them for deployment.
Lieutenant Colonel Trant was impressed with both the amount of work the soldiers had done and the amount of training and operating hours the soldiers were gaining. (He also commented several times how beautiful the area is)
The Lieutenant Colonel noted that IRT projects are a win-win. The host community and project partners have a project completed and the soldiers get training time.
The soldiers will continue working for the upcoming week. They will be pulling out on Saturday, August 21 to return to Reading, PA.