Little Pine Creek Improved

When a drought is finally declared the day before construction starts on a stream project, to be followed with over 3” of rain beginning only a few hours later, it makes for an interesting project.

Mark Sausser of Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission explains the construction process to Little Pine State Park officials as the excavator holds the sill log in place while the crew uses rebar to pin the log to the streambed.

The Little Pine Creek streambank stabilization and habitat restoration project kicked off with a 2-day rain delay, and more rain throughout the week and a half long project. The deviation from typical stream flow, accompanied by a shortage of delivered logs for structures, enabled the stream team to show their flexibility and creativity, as they had to modify the original plan. With DCNR’s permission, the crew cut a few trees (mostly willow and sycamore) to use as face logs for the mudsills, with intentions of the trees reestablishing roots to help further stabilize the bank 

The Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy partnered with Little Pine State Park (DCNR Bureau of State Parks) and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission on a project to address eroding streambanks along Little Pine Creek within Little Pine State Park. Using log and rock structures approximately 1,000 feet of the streambank were stabilized and some floodplain access restored.  

A bird’s eye view of pinning a sill log; drill the hole, find the hole, use sledgehammer to get rebar started, finish pounding rebar with jack hammer and bend the extruding end downstream.

Specifically we looked at the stream stretch starting at the shooting range going downstream. Little Pine Creek is a Cold Water Fishery that is attaining for aquatic resources. The project site is in a stretch of the stream that also has naturally reproducing trout and is a Keystone Select trout stream. 

Little Pine Creek’s streambanks are eroding, creating bank heights of 8 to 10 feet from water’s edge to the top of bank. The sediment from the eroding stream banks is entering the stream system and depositing in the area of this proposed project and down stream. 

Grading what used to be the 14’ vertical bank, once grading was completed the bank was seeded and mulched. Also notice the willow tree used for structure work in the bottom left corner, the goal is for the tree to establish roots and grow to further stabilize the bank.

To give you some idea of the amount of sediment coming into the system we can use the location of the swimming buoys at Little Pine State Park’s lake which is downstream. The buoys are placed where there is 4.5 feet of water depth. In 2020 the buoys were placed approximately 75-feet from shore, in 2021 they were placed approximately 125 feet from shore. The buoys had to move further out because of the sediment filling in the lake.  

As you will see in the aerial photos comparing the site from 1995 (on left) to 2015 (on right) sediment is filling in the lake at Little Pine State Park. The sediment is from the eroding stream banks. 

By working to eliminate sources of sediment and restore access to the floodplains the hope is Little Pine Creek can remain a Cold Water Fishery and continue to be attaining for aquatic resources as well as meet these other designations. 

Jason Detar is a fisheries biologist for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and serves on the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture. He conducted a habitat analysis of Little Pine Creek. When asked by email his thoughts on this project he responded with: 

“Substantial streambank erosion is occurring throughout the proposed project reach on Little Pine Creek. This has resulted in significant sediment transport downstream in the greater Pine Creek/West Branch Susquehanna/Susquehanna River watersheds impacting water quality and habitat. The Little Pine Creek stream channel is becoming overly wide and shallow from the bank erosion.  Little Pine Creek is unique in that it is a large stream that supports a wild Brook Trout population throughout the project reach. Brook Trout are intolerant of sediment and elevated water temperature. Completion of the project will improve water quality by reducing erosion and sediment deposition and improve habitat for wild Brook Trout.” 

The crew built modified sawtooth mudsills, root wad deflectors and placed boulders. The mudsills and root wads slow the flow of the stream and redirect it towards the middle of the channel, which relieves pressure from the heavily eroded bank. These structures also provide habitat for fish, turtles, and other animals.  The rock piles in the middle of the stream were intended to be large, individual boulders which would create scour pools on the downstream side. The 14’ high vertical bank was graded to reconnect Little Pine to the floodplain, this will allow for sediment to settle out into the meadow above rather than continuing downstream and filling the dam during high water events. 

Several sections of the modified sawtooth mudsill are seen here; the crew pins a face log on the downstream section, the completed upstream sections are being back-filled with stone, once all of that is complete, the bank will be graded.

We anticipate continuing this partnership with DCNR at Little Pine State Park to implement more stream restoration along this popular stretch of naturally reproducing trout stream. 

A shout out and thank you to Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Little Pine State Park, the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, and the Coldwater Heritage Partnership for their help with the project! 

Municipal Officials Walk Through the First Draft of the Tioga River Mine Drainage Treatment System

The active treatment system that will be cleaning up abandoned mine discharge (AMD) from Coal Creek, Fall Brook, and Morris Run will have pipes moving water to the plant for treatment and then back to the streams for release through three municipalities. Recently, representatives from those municipalities and Tioga County were given an overview of the project concept and then visited several sites that will be used in the Tioga River Mine Drainage Treatment System.

Sami explained the overall concept as well as what infrastructure would be in each municipality.

The group began in the community room at Island Park for the overview.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) and their engineers from Kleinfelder explained the current plan for how the water would be collected, conveyed to the treatment plant, and then how it will get back to the streams.  

After the overview and some questions the group headed out to see some of the sites being considered for pump stations.

The first stop on the tour was at the largest discharge, the one on Coal Creek. Many members of the group had never seen the discharge before, only heard about it. While the flow was lower than normal, it still impressed many of the attendees with the volume of water coming out of the hillside.

The consultant explained that the entry had collapsed, but had once been the “man entrance” to the mine. After the mining was complete, the entrance had been sloped to make it easier for the water to flow out and other modifications were made to help de-water the area of the mine that was being worked.

Tom (on the left) was explaining to George from Blossburg Borough how the Coal Creek discharge would be captured.

The group then walked down the road to see a potential location for a pump station that will help move the water from the discharge to the treatment plant. The site is along a well-used road. Discussions included known utilities (the consultants will be doing a formal review) and the depth the utilities are set at, as well as conversations related to plowing snow. There will need to be air vents along the lines, and the consultants wanted to ensure the vents won’t damage snow plows or be damaged by the plows.

The old mine road would be reopened to gain access to the Coal Creek discharge. The road the group is standing on would be used to get the water to the active treatment plant. In the next phase of design specific questions will be discussed about how the road will be rebuilt after the pipes are set.

The next stop was Morris Run. The village is named after its stream which is AMD impacted. There are two discharges close together here. These two will be captured and brought together before being conveyed to the treatment plant.

The two discharges in Morris Run are near the Township’s maintenance shop. (which made for easy parking for the tour)

Fall Brook was next. There is a passive treatment system currently treating some of the water from Fall Brook. In a passive treatment system the water flows through a series of limestone treatment cells or ponds. The water slows down and flows through the limestone increasing the pH which allows heavy metals to settle out. The passive system will stay in place and continue to operate with a set volume of water. The flow above that set volume will be directed to the active treatment plant.

The Caribbean blue in the distance, on the left is part of the current passive treatment system for Fall Brook.

The last stop on the tour was the proposed location for the actual active treatment plant. Here questions related to traffic patterns were discussed. There will be materials brought in frequently to keep the plant operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for years and years.

Now SRBC and the consultants will begin following up with each of the municipalities and discussing details. These detailed discussions will inform the next phase of planning and design. It’s anticipated the next draft design will be presented to the officials in October.

The excitement about a cleaner Tioga River is building!

Blossburg Property Purchased – Tioga River Clean-up Moves One Step Ahead

The acquisition of a 216-acre property in the Borough of Blossburg (Tioga County) is allowing a project to treat Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) to move ahead.

The Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy (NPC) purchased the property from KLJ Enterprises, Inc. with funding provided by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. The property will be needed to provide access to two abandoned mine discharges for treatment of the water as part of a larger project to clean up the Tioga River.

Blossburg Mayor Shane Nickerson, Renee’ Carey with NPC, John Brown and Cindy Ridall with KLJ Enterprises met on site to celebrate the sale of the property and the next step in the Tioga River reccovery

“It was an opportunity for us to do something good for the Tioga River. We bought the property as an investment, but who better to sell it to than NPC so it can become part of the Tioga River’s clean-up,” said John Brown, partner in KLJ Enterprises Inc.

Cindy Ridall also a partner in KLJ Enterprises Inc. added, “It was the right thing to do. It will be good for the whole area. Can you imagine what a clean Tioga River will mean for Blossburg and the businesses in town?”

KLJ, Inc. worked with the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy so the funding for the purchase could be secured and plans set in motion for the future ownership of the property. It was a several month process, but the closing happened in early May.

The property, just blocks away from downtown Blossburg, has Coal Creek running through it. The Creek has two discharges from former coal mines flowing into it about a half mile above where the Creek empties into the Tioga River.

Coal Creek flows through the property just purchased

Blossburg Mayor, Shane Nickerson explained, “As a kid you knew to wear your old shoes when you were going into the (Tioga) River because whatever you wore in would be orange when you came out. It’s exciting and amazing to think that we’re getting closer to the Tioga being a clean River and Island Park being a place for fishing.”

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection have been working in the Tioga River watershed with the Tioga County Concerned Citizens Committee for nearly 20 years to clean up the Tioga River. Over the years the team has studied the various mine discharges to understand what types of pollution are being released at that particular discharge and to understand how each discharge impacts the larger, Tioga River.

Charlie and Joyce Andrews with the Tioga County Concerned Citizens Committee helped draw attention to the Tioga River and start conversations about what a clean Tioga River would mean for the communities along its banks and how to start the process of working towards a clean river.

“Each step along the way has had its challenges, and we know there will be challenges yet to come, but to see so much forward progress happening in the last couple of years, and to see the path forward coming into focus feels great,” said Charlie Andrews, President of the Tioga County Concerned Citizens Committee.

Through efforts by multiple partners passive treatment systems have been built on Fall Brook. These smaller systems have improved section of the Tioga River, but the in-design active treatment plant being planned now will restore over 20-miles of the Tioga River, several miles of Fall Brook and Morris Run as well as treat a discharge on Coal Creek. This combination of treatments will improve the water quality of not only the Tioga River, but also Tioga Lake and its effluent.

“Treating Coal Creek and cleaning up the Tioga River will help restore the fish and aquatic habitat to the River; provide clean water for municipal, agricultural, recreational, commercial and industrial purposes, such as irrigation for agriculture and kayaking for citizens; and ensure the water flowing through Blossburg and into the Chesapeake Bay from the Tioga River is clean and helping to restore the communities and waterways along its path,” said, Tom Clark, Mine Drainage Program Coordinator  with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

“The Susquehanna River Basin Commission recognized the importance of the property. We appreciate the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy’s help in taking the step of acquiring the property so our options for treatment design can remain flexible as the project moves ahead. We are planning to wrap-up the design and permitting next year, and can’t wait for the day when this property no longer has Abandoned Mine Drainage flowing through it,” Clark added.

Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy Board Member, Julie Weaver added, “When I was teaching science at Miller Elementary [Southern Tioga School District] we studied the Tioga River and had the kids test the water quality. It was the example of ‘polluted’ water and allowed us to have many conversations about pollution and remediation. It’s very exciting to know that the River will soon be remediated. I’m happy that the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy could help the partners take another step forward by acquiring the property. We’re excited and ready to work with the community”

Eventually NPC will work with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and the property will become part of the Tioga State Forest.

SRBC has a couple of websites where you can get more information about the Tioga River:

Tioga River Restoration Main Page: 
https://www.srbc.net/our-work/mine-drainage/tioga-river-restoration.html

Tioga River Restoration Story Map: 
https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/51e8a9b3b8f14accaeb7bcb10252e622

Every Project Begins With a Story: The Kelley/New Garden Acquisition

 

Every project at NPC begins with a story. The story of family and community, and their connection to the land and waters of the region. But the story doesn’t begin and end there. With each project there is an arc. You know, the kind of arc your fourth grade English teacher taught you about, the arc of a narrative story…it kinda looks like a roller coasteror a mountain range… 

 

…kinda like a Pennsylvania mountain range 

But I digress…

A Classic Narrative

The story of how NPC conserves land is like a classic narrative in that it has a beginning, middle and an end. It’s never linear, and often it starts in the dark of night, on a Sunday afternoon, or in the middle of a rain storm.

There are many peaks and valleys, yes literally, but also figuratively. In the case of Kelley/New Garden, many players needed to play their part for the success of the acquisition. John Steinbeck couldn’t have made this stuff up!

A Cast of Characters

This story contains interesting characters whose paths cross and link through the acquisition of the land. County Commissioners, biologists, State Senators and Representatives, judges, lawyers and even a priest worked together to create communications and opportunities for the acquisition to move forward. Then there were the Kelley Estate heirs who had to agree to sell their portions of the estate in support of the partnership and conservation of the land, as well as the members of the West Keating Township community who used the land for generations to hunt, fish and at one time make their living. And last, but certainly not least, NPC’s director, Renee’ Carey and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s, Thom Woodruff, would work to partner with all of them to ensure the successful outcome of the project and the acquisition of the land. If I told you everyone who took part in the success of this acquisition, including NPC donors,  the list alone would be something like the opening of a JRR Tolkein saga!

The Climax

An aspect of the climax came when the Clinton County Courts deeded the property to NPC. The next step at year two in the acquisition project, was to transfer ownership of the property to the Bureau of Forestry and the PA Game Commission. The two state agencies would then work to decide how the property would be divided. Once these decision could be made the Conservancy and the Elk Foundation would begin to move forward with the sale. This would take another 2 years. Who knew where this story would end?!

A Happy Ending

For one week, in 1999, NPC was the proud owner of 4,200 acres of Clinton County Forest. A week later, the land was turned over to The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to help offset the insurance costs. Then in the summer of 2001, 3,100 acres were dedicated as State Game Lands 321, and 1,100 acres became part of the Sproul State Forest. A happy ending for a four year project.

Today the property is comprised of fields, woods, food plots, meandering runs, steep wooded side hills and 3 1/2 miles of river frontage along the West Branch of the Susquehanna.

There’s Always More to the Story

We hope you enjoyed this post, it is part of a series of pieces highlighting the stories of NPC’s work in the region. Until next time…

 

Raise Up Land Conservation

Beginning at 6:00pm on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania’s Raise the Region 2017 will allow you to make a donation and have your donation “stretched.” By using their online portal, you’ll make a donation to FCFPP earmarked for NPC. The Foundation will then “stretch” your donation using funds from the Alexander Family of Dealerships and others.

To make a donation during the event visit our online giving page at “Raise the Region.”  Please note, the link won’t work until 6:00pm on March 8, 2017 and will stop working at 11:59pm on March 9, 2017.

Ephemeral Forest Pools a.k.a. Vernal Pools

Vernal ponds are temporary wetlands that fill with water each Spring. They are seasonal breeding and feeding grounds for many amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds, and mammals. Some of these animals need the pools for breeding while others rely on them for food.

The word “vernal” comes from the Latin word for spring, vernalis.

Vernal ponds are formed each year in the late winter or early spring. A shallow ground depression fills with spring snowmelt, precipitation, and the rising water table. They are generally less than 40 yards in diameter and no more than 4 feet deep.

Feeding Birds Month is Wrapping Up

Feeding birds month is wrapping up. The last thing to think about is when to stop feeding birds. Dr. Brittingham notes that feeding into spring may allow you to see some migratory birds on their fly through, and the birds that are normal “PA residents” in the spring and summer, but leave for the winter.

She suggests you keep an eye on the area you’re using and if you start to see mold or mildew, to stop feeding, or change your feeding area. Typically in the spring there’s more moisture from melting snow and spring rain. Things might get moldy, and you’ll want to prevent it from becoming a problem.

She also states that if a bear visits your feeders, you need to stop feeding. Bears coming out of their winter hibernation are really hungry and your bird feeder is an easy source of yummy calories.

Penn State Extension and the Pennsylvania Game Commission both have resources to review about bears in general, with some information about bears and bird feeders.

Who Eats What?

Penn State Extension provides the following chart to help you understand, who eats what, and what kind of feeder you need for that food source:

Species – Food Preference -Feeder Preference

Mourning dove – Cracked corn, millet, sunflower seeds – Ground, platform feeder
Red-bellied woodpecker – Suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts – Suet feeder, hanging feeder
Downy and hairy woodpeckers – Suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts – Suet feeder, hanging feeder
Blue jay – Sunflower seeds,  suet, peanuts – Platform feeder
Black-capped chickadee – Sunflower seeds,  suet, peanuts – Almost all feeders
Tufted titmouse – Sunflower seeds,  suet, peanuts – Hanging feeder, suet feeder
White-breasted nuthatch – Sunflower seeds,  suet – Almost all feeders
Red-breasted nuthatch – Sunflower seeds,  suet – Suet feeder, hanging feeder
Carolina wren – Peanut butter, suet – Suet feeder
European starling – Peanut butter, suet, sunflower seeds – Suet feeder, platform feeder
White-throated sparrow – Sunflower seeds, millet – Ground, platform feeder
Song sparrow – Sunflower seeds, millet – Ground, platform feeder
Dark-eyed junco – Sunflower seeds, millet – Ground, platform feeder
Northern cardinal – Sunflower seeds, seed mixes – Ground, platform feeder, tube feeder with tray
Common grackle – Cracked corn, sunflower seeds – Platform feeder, tube feeder with tray
Brown-headed cowbird – Millet – Platform feeder
Purple finch – Niger, sunflower seeds, millet – Niger feeder, hanging tube feeder
House finch – Niger, sunflower seeds, millet – Niger feeder, hanging tube feeder, ground
American goldfinch – Niger, sunflower seeds – Niger feeder, hanging tube feeder, ground
House sparrow – Niger, sunflower seeds – Platform feeder, tube feeder with tray

Location, Location, Location

Where you place your bird feeder will impact who visits your bird feeder. Birds like cover. You’ll want the feeder to be within 10 feet of some trees or shrubs. This will allow the birds to check things out before venturing to the feeder.

You should also think about a water source for the birds visiting your bird feeder. In the winter, water can be especially hard to find. A birdbath, or other shallow container can work well for birds needing a drink or a bath.

Something to keep in mind with both your bird feeder and birdbath is while you want some shrubs nearby, if there’s too much cover, your cat (or your neighbor’s) will find the shrubbery a great place to hide and wait for birds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that between 1,400,000 and 3,700,000,000 birds are killed annually by cats. That’s a really big number. So, keep cats in mind when placing your feeders.

A problem at bird feeders is squirrels. There are a lot of theories on how to keep squirrels out of your feeder, but Dr. Margaret Brittingham at Penn State University notes, “You are trying to attract birds to your feeder, but inevitably the squirrels will come too. Some people enjoy watching squirrels, while others consider them pests.”

Your Bird Feed Determines Who You See

Different bird species eat different things. While a Mourning dove likes cracked corn, a Red-bellied woodpecker prefers suet. What you put out in your feeder will be a large factor in determining who you end up seeing at your feeder.

Penn State University’s Dr. Margaret C. Brittingham, Professor of Wildlife Resources, recommends small black-oil sunflower seed as the best all-round bird seed. In a publication she wrote for Penn State Extension she noted, it “is preferred by many smaller species, including chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice. It has a high oil content that is nutritionally important for birds, and a thin seed coat that is easy for them to crack open.”

Dr. Brittingham also suggests providing a variety of foods to help increase the variety of birds you see. Your feeder will need to be one designed to dispense the seed. For instance striped sunflower seeds are larger than the black-oil sunflower seed. A feeder that easily lets the black-oil sunflower seed out might jam up because striped sunflower seeds are too big to exit the holes in the feeder.

She also recommends using a seed mix if you’re interested in a variety of birds, but don’t have the desire to maintain a variety of feeders, or space for a variety of feeders. She does caution, that some mixes contain items that birds in our region don’t eat, so you want to be sure to read the label and pick a seed mix that “fits” what birds in your area eat.

Dr. Brittingham shares the recipes for “Marvel Meal,” a favorite for chickadees, titmice, wrens, and bluebirds. The mixture can be smeared on the trunk of a tree, or a tree stump. You can also freeze the mixture into blocks, slice it and put it in a suet feeder or put it on a feeder tray.

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 handful of sunflower seeds (optional)