During the past 10 years, fish habitat structures consisting of root wads, log vanes, mudsills and other constructed materials have been placed along streams and creeks in Lycoming County.
Three of the projects in the Loyalsock Creek Watershed have involved monitoring by Lycoming College’s Clean Water Institute, most recently by senior ecology major Dom Novella of Hastings, Cambria County.
(Photo: Dom Novella, Lycoming College students Ali McNett and Justin Potuck, Arway, Lycoming College students Jennifer Twardoski and Tracie Curtis, and Zimmerman near Elk Creek.)
Novella monitored the fish along Mill Creek, Wallis Run and Elk Creek, where structures have been added over the past several years. All sites have shown significant increases in trout populations since the installation of the fish habitats, which were designed and permitted by the Fish and Boat Commission.
The latest project in Elk Creek restored habitats that had been destroyed by flooding in the years leading up to and including 2011, when Tropical Storm Lee caused hundreds of millions of dollars in flood damage to residential areas in Pennsylvania alone.
The Sullivan County project began last summer and finished in August.
This summer, Novella helped a crew of volunteers stabilize the banks near structures placed last year, and assisted employees of Chief Oil and Gas, which provided the bulk of the labor and equipment needed to construct the habitats installed this summer.
The two-year Elk Creek project, which received overwhelming support by streamside landowners, was funded by Chief Oil and Gas.
“This experience taught me that people have different views about what stream restoration means and how to accomplish it,” said Novella. “I have also learned how to take on a project by myself and lead others to make it successful. Those two things are huge in my development as a student and as a future professional.”
The structures consist of multi-log vanes, consisting of three logs pinned to the streambed with metal rods or large rocks, and mudsills, which are logs that hold the bottom portion of the bank in place and provide an overhanging structure for trout to swim under for shade and protection.
The banks were resurfaced with soil and the overall slope reduced to prevent soil from washing into the stream. The areas were also seeded and mulched.
The structures provide pools of water that offer protection from predators and overly warm water while minimizing stream bank erosion.
“It is wonderful to know that Phase I of the Elk Creek project has had positive environmental results and we look forward to seeing the results from Phase II,” said Daria Fish, director of public affairs at Chief Oil and Gas. “We are proud to partner on community projects like this and look forward to future collaborations.”
Funding for Novella’s internship was provided by the Degenstein Foundation and the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association.
Funding for the construction on the habitat restoration projects included: Chief Oil and Gas for the Elk Creek project; Growing Greener grants to the Rose Valley and the Mill Creek Watershed Association for the Mill Creek Project; and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and the North Central Pennsylvania Conservancy for the Wallis Run project.
Other project partners included Lycoming and Sullivan County Conservation Districts, Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, and the Fish and Boat Commission.
John Arway, executive director of the Fish and Boat Commission, recognized the progress in the Elk Creek project and monitoring by the institute during a recent visit to the project site.
Helping Novella monitor the creeks were nine other Clean Water Institute interns from the College.
The interns worked on several other projects with Novella including the institute’s contribution to a Rivers Conservation Plan for the Loyalsock Creek, funded by the Department of Natural Resources through a grant from the North Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, and assisting with a cane pole fishing derby on Rose Valley Lake.
The group also continued the institute’s tradition of participating in the Great North American Secchi Dip-In, which produces a snapshot of the transparency of lake water in the United States and Canada.
Students use various tools to measure the temperature, pH and turbidity of Rose Valley Lake. The event is named after one of the tools used to measure transparency called a Secchi disk. The dip-in is performed every year in July as part of the Celebrate Lakes Appreciation Month.
Lycoming College’s Clean Water Institute improves the health of waterways along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and its tributaries, and contributes vital research data and analysis to expand a growing body of knowledge.
The institute pairs student interns with local watershed and environmental groups to assist with projects and water testing in the College’s laboratory.
It also provides training, seminars and workshops on environmental issues, stream restoration and water quality to schools and other organizations.The projects were supervised by Mel Zimmerman, Ph.D., director of the Clean Water Institute.