December 31, 2006

Walt Finch, president of the Wiconisco Creek Restoration Association, takes visitors on a tour one of the six Rattling Creek limestone sand dosing sites that helps mitigate the damage to the stream from acid rain.

The Wiconisco Creek Watershed is approximately 42 miles long and the watershed covers 116 square miles in Dauphin and Schuylkill counties. The ongoing effects of abandoned coal mines, impacts from acid rain and poor agricultural practices in many instances have created a number of severe problems affecting water quality in this watershed.

A number of restoration efforts have already been undertaken, including: limestone dosing of Rattling Creek to reduce acidity, treatment of the Porter Tunnel discharge to reduce acidity and iron precipitation, and a project currently underway to eliminate iron precipitation from Bear Creek near Lykens. Another project to improve fish habitat in Wiconisco Creek adjacent to the Ned Smith Center has been designed and will be completed during the summer of 2007 with the help of the Doc Fritchey Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

A Rivers Conservation Plan was developed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources which will aid in directing future restoration work on the Wiconisco and its tributaries. It was based on earlier work done by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

Helping to guide the efforts is the Wiconisco Creek Task Force currently comprised of representatives from the Ned Smith Center, Doc Fritchey Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Fish and Boat Commission, Wiconisco Creek Restoration Association, Dauphin County Conservation District and the Millersburg Borough Authority. The Department of Environmental Protection and the Eastern and Western Coalitions for Abandoned Mine Reclamation have also been key partners in restoration efforts.

Anyone who appreciates what the Wiconisco watershed once was and can visualize what it can represent for future generations in terms of improved water quality and recreational benefits should contact WCRA President Walt Finch at 717-647-4043 or send email to: to offer support for the group’s future restoration efforts.

(Article Contributed by Bob Pennell, Doc Fritchey Chapter Trout Unlimited)

Just wanted to add that the gentleman with Walt feeding the fish is my Dad - Russell Hess - who went along to see the project. -- David Hess, editor PA Environment Digest.

December 30, 2006

December 28, 2006

Paul Zeph, Coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Highlands Action Program with the Department of Environmental Program, provides an introduction to the program.

The Highlands Action Program is a Federal/State/NGO partnership for collaborative monitoring, research, management and restoration activities in the Mid-Atlantic Appalachian region, which includes the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. This program focuses on the Appalachian forest as an ecosystem, with particular emphasis on restoring and protecting the forested headwaters of the region. The program aims to improve water quality, living resources, and habitat in the region; and to foster stewardship of resources through an outreach program for public information and education.

Contact Mr. Zeph by sending email to:

For more information, visit the Mid-Atlantic Highlands Action Program webpage.

December 19, 2006

Decorating the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania ranks first in the nation in the number of Christmas tree farms and ranks fourth in the nation in the number of Christmas trees cut each year and the acres of production. Pennsylvania has 2,164 farms covering 44,905 acres that produce 1.7 million cut trees each year. These farms have more than $13.9 million in sales annually.

The Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers’ Association donated the 22-foot tall Douglas Fir. The tree is decorated with 7,000 white mini lights and includes nearly 500 ornaments supplied by 64 senior centers across Pennsylvania.
The Boggs Road Mine Drainage Treatment Project was the first project undertaken by the Montour Run Watershed Association in Allegheny County.

The project reduces the iron content of the mine discharge from over 80 parts per million down to just 1 or 2 ppm.

Stan Sattinger, past president of the Montour Run Watershed Association, and John Davidson, a former DEP mine inspector and now a volunteer, talk about how the project was developed and how it functions.

Adam Kropf, the son of the landowner, tells how the project has improved their quality of life and the local fishing.

Montour Run Watershed Association

Biomost, Inc.- Project Designer

JB#2 Mine Drainage Treatment Project

Sometimes mine drainage treatment projects do not work like the designers thought. And that’s what happened in the case of the JB#2 Project in the Raccoon Creek Watershed, Washington County.

Originally designed to filter water through spent mushroom compost, it was discovered the lower pH of the mine water made the iron cling to the compost and clog up the system.

Now, with the help of the federal Office of Surface Mining, the Raccoon Creek Watershed Association and Independence Marsh Foundation are renovating the project to restore its treatment capacity.

John Davidson, a former DEP mine inspector and now a local volunteer, talks about the challenges of renovating the treatment system.

Raccoon Creek Watershed Association

JB#1 Mine Drainage Treatment Project

Phase I of the JB#1 Project is located in the headwaters of the Raccoon Creek Watershed in Washington County and is designed to treat a 1,100 gallon per minute mine discharge.

The unique design of this project will mix clean water from Raccoon Creek with the contaminated mine water to increase the effectiveness of a pond and wetland treatment system to reduce the iron content of the water by about 45 tons a year.

Tim Danehy from Biomost, Inc. talks about the objectives of the project and its design, while equipment operator Wayne Fuchs from Quality Aggregates discusses its construction.

Raccoon Creek Watershed Association

Biomost, Inc.- Project Designer
Fairmount Park Important Bird Area. Keith Russell, Audubon PA’s on-site ornithologist and outreach coordinator, describes why the East Reservoir and Fairmount Park in Philadelphia are important bird habitats. The Park was named as one of Pennsylvania’s Important Bird Areas in 2005.

Tim Schaeffer, Executive Director of Audubon PA, outlines the potential of Fairmount Park as an exciting focus for a variety of environmental education activities in the community, the city and the region.

Joe Schultz, of the Philadelphia Water Department, briefed the group on the history of the reservoir and current activities undertaken there.

Audubon PA

Fairmount Park Important Bird Area Background

Philadelphia Water Department
John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Audubon, PA

From 1801 to 1806, Mill Grove, Montgomery County, was the first home in America of artist and naturalist John James Audubon. Today, the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove preserves one of the nation’s largest collections of Audubon art.

An educational center of the National Audubon Society, Mill Grove is dedicated to connecting people with the natural world by interpreting Audubon’s legacy and encouraging guests to explore the estate, which remains largely as John found it—a haven for birds and wildlife.

The Center consists of a 240-year old stone farmhouse and barn, a re-creation of John’s bedroom, original art from John’s masterworks Birds of North America, 175 acres of rolling woodlands and open meadows, more than 9 miles of walking trails, a bike trail linking the Perkiomen and Schuylkill River Trails to downtown Philadelphia and Fairmount Park just 18 miles by trail and year-round educational programs and special events.

Jean Bochnowski, the Center’s Director, provides an overview of the history and activities of the Center to PA Environment Digest editor David Hess.

Location: 1201 Pawlings Road, Audubon, PA 19403
Hours: Tuesday thru Saturday 10 to 4, Sunday 1 to 4
Information: 610-666-5593
Mill Grove Audubon Website

December 14, 2006

Conservation Volunteer: Debra Valentino

Conservation Volunteer: Debra Valentino: Debra and several of her neighbors came to the Conservation District over five years ago asking for help to save Canonsburg Lake. She organized the Save Canonsburg Lake Committee and has hosted many meetings at her home and at her expense for legislators, Turnpike Commission Officials, and Fish and Boat Commission representatives including the Executive Director.

Debra has been the leader in working with the District to obtain the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant to prepare the Recreational Site Master Plan for Canonsburg Lake and is the Project Manager.

Recently, Congressman Tim Murphy secured a $250,000 award for the Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a Section 206 Habitat Restoration Study for Canonsburg Lake due to Debra’s efforts.

If Canonsburg Lake gets restored it will be primarily due to Debra’s determined and endless hard work and she has done all of this while still working full time for the U.S. Postal Service.

Washington County Conservation District Awards Luncheon December 12, 2006.

For more information, contact the Washington County Conservation District by sending email to: or calling 724-228-6774.

December 13, 2006

Director Service Award - Richard Lehman

Director Service Award: Dick Lehman, who has been a District Director since 1999, is leaving the Board of Directors at the end of 2006.

Mr. Lehman has represented the Washington County Farm Bureau and the Washington County Cattlemen’s Association on the District Board and has been one of the most active Directors in the entire history of the district.

He has chaired the Dirt and Gravel Road Quality Assurance Board for eight years and has been our regional representative to the Ohio Basin Commission. Under his leadership, the District has completed over $500,000 in Dirt and Gravel Road Projects.

He also led the effort to prevent the U.S.D.A. offices from moving away from the city of Washington and merge the Washington and Greene County Farm Service Agency County Committees.

In his own watershed, Mr. Lehman helped organize the Cross Creek Watershed Association. Through his leadership as chairman the Association has completed a Watershed Assessment, Restoration and Protection Plan.

Recently the Association obtained a grant, and with the help of the Avella Boy Scout Troop, completed a bridge crossing to extend the nature trail adjacent to the Avella High School. The Association has also installed a nature center at the Cross Creek Township Senior Citizens Center and plans to assist the township to develop the first municipal park in Cross Creek Township.

Mr. Lehman has also worked between the Watershed Association and the Conservation District to obtain Growing Greener Grants to install streambank fencing, warm season grasses, and rotational grazing systems in the head waters of the Cross Creek watershed.

“Dick’s enthusiasm, leadership, reliability, intelligence, and extra effort will be greatly missed,” said District Executive Director Gary Stokum.

Washington County Conservation District Awards Luncheon December 12, 2006.

For more information, contact the Washington County Conservation District by sending email to: or calling 724-228-6774.

Conservation Consulting Firm - Biomost and Kyle Durrett

Conservation Consulting Firm: Biomost is the Consulting Firm that completed the District’s study and report on the Raccoon Creek Restoration Project that was funded by Growing Greener. The original intent of the grant was to study the Erie Mine discharge and Plum Run discharge in Burgettstown and make recommendations for how to attempt to treat these discharges.

Kyle Durrett and Biomost looked imaginatively beyond the strict scope of the study and studied the various mine pools involved and how the pools interacted with one another. Kyle and Biomost also worked with Bruce Leavitt, an independent Geologist and Engineer that was looking at the interaction of mine pools through a grant from West Virginia University.

As a result of this detailed work, the Biomost team - Margaret Dunn, Tim Danehy, Shaun Busler and Cliff Denholm-- were able to propose a reclamation plan called “ELF.”

This system would collect five major mine pools in the Burgettstown area and treat close to 2,000 gallons per minute of contaminated mine water and return it to Raccoon Creek minus most of the contaminates cleaning up almost all of the major discharges in the Raccoon Creek watershed.

Biomost and Stream Restoration Inc. are now working with the District to seek grants to implement the findings in this study.

Washington County Conservation District Awards Luncheon December 12, 2006.

For more information, contact the Washington County Conservation District by sending email to: or calling 724-228-6774.

Conservation Organization Vicky Michaels and the Independence Marsh Foundation

Conservation Organization: Vicky Michaels and the Independence Marsh Foundation have been an irreplaceable asset to the conservation district. If it were not for Vicky and her Marsh Foundation the JB#2 Abandoned Mine Treatment Facility would not exist. They volunteered to accept the land donation from the Sasso Estate when no one else would step up to the plate. This allowed the District to build the treatment system.

They have continued to assist the District with the maintenance and repair not only of the JB#2 system, but also the other two systems the District and the Raccoon Creek Watershed Association maintain. Vicky has provided the construction site supervision for both the Hamilton AMD project and the JB#2 AMD project including the present emergency repair efforts.

Vicky and her Independence Marsh Foundation have also applied for and received grants to improve the environmental study center at the Burgettstown School District campus and assisted with the Children’s Groundwater Festival.

The Marsh Foundation has helped many communities with used tire cleanups using their tire sheer to cut the tires up and pack them into dumpsters to be taken to landfills. The latest tire collection was held in Hanover Township, Washington County.

Washington County Conservation District Awards Luncheon December 16, 2006

For more information, contact the Washington County Conservation District by sending email to: or calling 724-228-6774.

Conservation Educator: Sheila Burcin

Conservation Educator: Sheila Burcin is the former Director of the Penn State Cooperative Extension Office who was one of the four original individuals that formed the Washington County Watershed Alliance and has served as an officer of that county wide organization since the Alliance’s first days.

Sheila was also a major organizer of the Chartiers Creek Watershed Association, which recently completed a Rivers Conservation Plan and other projects.

She also serves on the Steering Committee and is one of the original organizers of the Children’s Groundwater Festival in Washington County. In addition to helping to obtain funding for the Festival, she organizes the schedule for the presenters and instructors.

Washington County Conservation District Awards Luncheon December 12, 2006.

For more information, contact the Washington County Conservation District by sending email to: or calling 724-228-6774.

Conservation Farmer of the Year: Ray Furda

Conservation Farmer of the Year: Mr. Ray Furda, who is in his 80’s and has farmed all of his life, owns and operates a 285 acre beef and horse farm in Somerset Township, Washington County, and has been a conservation cooperator since October 17, 1949.

The farm is extremely well kept and is located across from a popular public golf course. Mr. Furda installed a variety of conservation practices, including stream bank fencing, spring developments, tree planting, livestock crossings, warm season grasses, and a rotational grazing system.

Mr. Furda also uses a low impact method of farming to constantly maintain an excellent vegetative cover on all of his pastures, planting and harvesting only hay. This low impact method of farming greatly decreases erosion rates, sediment runoff while increasing wildlife habitat.

He participates in all of the available conservation programs through the Farm Service Agency and NRCS, including CREP, WHIP and EQIP.

Washington County Conservation District Awards Luncheon December 12, 2006

For more information, contact the Washington County Conservation District by sending email to: or calling 724-228-6774.

December 1, 2006

Mary D Multi-Purpose Mine Reclamation Project

Representatives of more than 20 partners gathered to celebrate the start of a multi-purpose mine reclamation project in MaryD, Schuylkill County.

The partners include the Schuylkill Headwaters Association, Delaware River Basin Commission, Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission, Schuylkill County Commissioners, Schuylkill County Conservation District, Schuylkill Township, Mary D Fire Co., Mary D Baseball Association, Enterprising Environmental Solutions Inc., URS Corp., the Exelon Schuylkill River Restoration Fund, William Penn Foundation, DEP, DCNR and Stell Environmental Enterprises Inc.

The $967,000 project will turn the old baseball field, currently owned by the Mary D Fire Co., into a passive mine drainage treatment system to treat up to 1,000 gallons per minute of acidic discharges from long-abandoned underground mines.

The Blaschak Coal Corp. of Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County, has donated approximately 10 acres of abandoned mine land for the site of a year-round recreation facility that will new six-acre facility that will include a baseball field; a regulation soccer field; basketball courts; walking path; handicap accessible concession, pavilion and restroom facilities; parking; fencing and bleachers.

PA Environment Digest editor David Hess caught up with some of the key partners at the ceremony.

November 29, 2006