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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!

Plunketts Creek Berm Removal One Step Closer

Approximately 35 members of the Army Reserve’s 333rd Engineering Company based in Reading, PA arrived in Proctor on Sunday, August 1, 2021. The unit trains to build roads, airstrips, and bases, but will spend their summer training removing an earthen berm along Plunketts Creek.

The project began nearly 3 years ago when the Pennsylvania Game Commission was evaluating management needs on State Game Lands 134. PGC personnel recognized that the berm was no longer needed since propagation activities had ended. They saw the opportunity to reconnect the Creek to its floodplain and recreate the habitat that once would have been all along the stream.

Around the same time the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy had received funds for a project to help improve or maintain water quality in Lycoming County. The site along Plunketts Creek seemed idea. The stream is already designated a High Quality-Cold Water Fishery with a naturally reproducing trout population (the best of the best), but there was concern the water quality could be changing due to the stream becoming wider and more sediment entering the system from sliding hillsides and streambanks.

As the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy were looking at options for the site at State Game Lands 134, they learned about the military’s Innovative Readiness Training program. The program allows communities to submit potential projects that could be used as a training exercise.

Over the next couple of weeks the 333rd will be working with Pennsylvania Game Commission employees from the Food and Cover program to remove the berm and improve Camp Mountain Road. The Unit is getting experience in a real world situation, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is getting help to improve the State Game Lands along Plunketts Creek and improve access to State Game Lands above the Creek, the residents nearby and downstream should receive less damage during high water events, and Plunketts Creek will be able to better access its floodplain.

August 1, 2, and 3 were spent getting equipment on site, jockeying equipment on the site, installing the silt sock for erosion and sedimentation control and building a wash rack to be able to rinse mud and dirt off the trucks and equipment before it leaves the site. August 4 the work will begin to remove the earthen berm, and it’s scheduled to wrap up on August 20.

Members of the 333rd discuss with the Pennsylvania Game Commission Food and Cover crew logistics of moving equipment from the berm removal site along Plunketts Creek to the road project site on the mounatinside