The Fish and Boat Commission Wednesday announced $350,000 in grants under the Sinnemahoning Creek Watershed Restoration Grant Program to develop and implement projects that benefit fishing, boating, and aquatic resources within in Cameron, Elk, Potter and McKean counties.
The funding is available through a 2007 settlement agreement with Norfolk Southern as restitution for environmental damages from a June 30, 2006, train derailment in rural Norwich Township, McKean County.
Under the settlement, Norfolk Southern agreed to pay the Commonwealth $7.35 million as restitution for environmental damages. The PFBC received $3.675 million of the settlement.
“The funds received through this damage settlement have been used to improve access, water quality and stream health and to restore stream connectivity,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “We are pleased to work cooperatively with our conservation partners to make ongoing and lasting improvements to protect and enhance aquatic resources in the Sinnemahoning Creek watershed.”
The external projects funded total approximately $350,000 and include:
-- Cameron County Conservation District, $121,050: “Finley 63 Passive Treatment System Construction.” As part of the effort to restore the historic wild trout fishery within the Sterling Run watershed, construction of this passive water treatment facility will remediate an acid mine discharge from an abandoned coal mine to Finley Run – a major tributary to Sterling Run.
-- McKean County Conservation District, $65,000: “Fish Habitat Improvement and Stream Restoration Program.” Improve fish and wildlife habitats in streams and riparian buffers with a primary focus of improving habitat for aquatic Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) identified in the “2015 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan” by installing in-stream structures, stabilizing eroded streambanks, and planting trees and shrubs in riparian corridors.
-- Potter County Conservation District, $35,661: “Fish Habitat Improvement and Stream Restoration Program.” Improve natural functions of streams and riparian areas to ensure they are supporting aquatic and riparian wildlife communities. Accomplished by completing streambank stabilization and fish habitat enhancement using PFBC-approved in-stream habitat structures.
-- Toby Creek Watershed Association, $43,890: “Fourth Fish Grow-Out Tank.” Expansion of fish production for stocking through installation of a fourth trout propagation tank at the Blue Valley AMD Treatment Facility and Cooperative Nursery. The site also has a trout stocked pond and parking to provide public fishing.
-- Lock Haven Office of Trout Unlimited, $62,380: “Coldwater Habitat Improvement in Kettle Creek Watershed.” Project objectives are to construct two bank stabilization projects on Kettle Creek downstream of Ole Bull State Park (one site is in the Special Regulation “Catch & Release, Fly-Fishing Only” section; the other site is known as the Charles Clukey property), as well as to improve in-stream fish habitat and establish a forested riparian buffer through tree planting.
-- Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, $22,035: “Sinnemahoning Watershed Aquatic Organism Passage Inventory.” Using a protocol developed by the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative, complete assessments of culvert/bridge stream crossings to determine potential to be barriers to aquatic organism passage in the Sinnemahoning Creek watershed. These site assessments where roads cross streams will be used for prioritization of replacing existing stream conveyance structures that are causing fragmented, disconnected aquatic habitats that limit dispersal of fish and other aquatic life.
Including the current grant announcement, the PFBC has awarded nearly $2.5 million in grants to external partners from the Sinnemahoning Creek watershed settlement fund since the start of the grant program in 2008.
The PFBC also announced its decision to use settlement funds for two internal projects that total $95,510. These funds will be used for the following projects:
-- East Branch Lake Fish Habitat Improvement Project $55,510: Install multiple fish habitat structures within the lake at Elk State Park while it is drawn down for repairs to the dam.
--George B. Stevenson Lake Fish Habitat Improvement Project $40,000: Install multiple fish habitat structures within the lake at Sinnemahoning State Park while it is drawn down for repairs to the dam.For more information, visit the Fish and Boat Commission’s Sinnemahoning Creek Watershed Restoration Grant Program webpage.