Tag Archives: 333rd

Is Plunketts Creek Using Its Floodplain?

A lot ot people would look at the photo below and think, “oh no! That’s awful.”

This is a photo from Thursday, September 23, 2021. The PA Game Commission’s Food and Cover crew stopped in to see how things were doing.

This is looking at the same trees in the first “flood photo” from a different direction. The flood water is pushing out of the Creek, between the trees, and into the field.

This is the project site on Plunketts Creek that the United States Army Reserves’ 333rd Engineering Unit’s 1st Platoon worked on for their summer training. The soldiers worked to remove an earthen berm.

The soldiers used heavy equipment to pull apart an earthen berm and move it out of the floodplain.

Here the soldiers are working in the area between the trees shown in the flood photo.

This solider is leaving an edge that a more experienced equipment operator would come back and “finish.”

Trent is holding the survey rod “on top” of the berm. The bottom of the staff is resting where the top of the berm once was.

The Friday after Ida moved through (Friday, September 24, 2021) NPC staff went to visit the Plunketts Creek site. Not just because it was a beautiful morning, but because we wanted to see what Plunketts Creek did and where Plunketts Creek went with all the rain.

We wanted to see if there was flood debris that would need removed. This tree branch got caught up on the wooden stakes used to hold the jute mat in place (technically it’s a coconut fibre woven in to a grid).

There was also plant material caught on the stakes.

But, the good news is there’s fresh sediment (soil) too. As the flood waters spread out, the slow down in speed. As the water slows down, the sediment has a chance to settle out.

Think about stirring powder into a glass of water. As the water stops twirling around, some of the powder will settle into the bottom of the glass if it’s given a chance to sit.

A piece of a tree branch (about 1.5 inches in diameter and 18 inches long) got caught on this stake. You can see the gravel that deposited out behind that piece of branch. The branch provided a break to the flow and allowed the water to slow down. That slowing water was enough that material dropped out.

This long stretch of fresh sediment was one of the most exciting scenes. (Yes, this is what we find exciting.)

Plunketts Creek has access to its floodplain now. The water can easily rise up and move into the floodplain and slow down. The sediment drops out and erosion is reduced if not eliminated.

As the water recedes, the sediment remains. This sediment, or dirt and sand, provides a base for grass and plants to grow. A lot of Plunketts Creek has rocky edges. Getting plant material back along the Creek will provide a filter to keep sediment ouf the Creek (think about future rain storms washing dirt across the surface) and that vegetation helps to slow down flood waters a little more.

During our visit we also looked at the vegetation for signs on where the water had flowed. Here you can see the vegetation is pushed all the way over. You can also see in the lower right hand corner, sediment that was caught in the grass.

The erosion in the background is from either the 2011 flood or the 2016 flood in the watershed.

This is the same areas as the flood photos above. You can see the sediment that was dropped in (it looks more sandy here than soil-y) and the grass is knocked over. (This was another exciting scene for NPC staff.)

The signs from this first high water event are all good. Plunketts Creek used its floodplains and is deciding where it wants to settle.

Thank you to Pennsylvania American Water for sponsoring October’s blog!

333rd Makes Progress at Plunketts Creek

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 first day on site had a few bumps

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.

This photo shows how the fill material in helping to raise the road surface.

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.

The rain and wind brought a halt to the hauling.

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.

left to right – LTC Reuben Trant, 1SG Brandon Bleiler, Capt. Michael Stauffer, SFC Josh Schoch

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.