Friday, August 17, 2018

Emma Creek Restoration Project Reduced Flood Damage, Sediment & Nutrient Pollution In Huntingdon County

The Emma Creek Restoration Project on Huntingdon Farm owned by John and Kathryn Dawes in Alexandria, Huntingdon County is another example where green infrastructure not only reduced flood damage, but also the pollution that comes with stormwater.
After three straight days of rain this week, the Emma Creek Project successfully channeled stormwater to the middle of the stream and onto connected floodplain areas that were constructed as part of the project.
Reconnecting the creek to its floodplain involved removing legacy sediments on either side of the stream that had formed steep dirt banks.  These banks were not only a tremendous source of sediment washing down stream, they prevented flood water from spreading out naturally.
The banks were regraded and planted with a stream buffer, natural structures were installed to redirect water flow to the center of the stream channel and to protect the new stream banks.  Sharp bends in the stream were softened into curves to improve the flow of water.
Since Huntingdon Farm is a working cattle farm, cattle access to the stream was restricted to specific crossings and additional fencing was installed to keep livestock out of the stream.
In addition to the other environmental benefits of the project, the Emma Creek restoration is also improving water quality.  
On Wednesday, students from Juniata College found young of the year fish in the stream despite the torrents of water.  They were at the Farm assessing the quality of the water for the Fish and Boat Commission’s Unassessed Waters Initiative.
As built, the project involved restoration at total of about 2,500 feet of stream on about 6 acres.  
It was funded in part by the Growing Greener Program and developed with the help of several partners-- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Foundation for California University, The Trust For Tomorrow and Blue Acres, LLC.
The Emma Creek Project, installed in 2013, is only one of a series of best management practices on Huntingdon Farm over the last few years, which in 2016 was recognized with an Environmental Stewardship Award.
The award is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, and is presented to farmers and ranchers who demonstrate a commitment to protecting the farm and ranch land in their care.
The Future Is Green… Infrastructure
Communities and the state have started to rely more and more on green infrastructure for cheaper, more cost effective ways to deal with critical water pollution and flooding problems faced by the Commonwealth.
And once installed, green infrastructure like restored floodplains and wetlands, forest buffers, infiltration areas and rain gardens become more effective because they are living things, growing practices, not cement and cinder block structures.
Philadelphia, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, as well as Lycoming, Monroe and York counties and groups of communities like in the Wyoming Valley have already turned to green infrastructure with its multiple benefits to meet water quality goals with a single investment.
Pennsylvania’s initiative to develop the state’s Phase III Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan covering half the state is focused on developing county by county list of green infrastructure policies and practices needed to fulfill the state’s Chesapeake Bay obligations.
To learn more about green infrastructure, read Meeting The Challenge Of Keeping Pennsylvania Clean, Green And Growing.
(Photo: Emma Creek during last week’s rain. Restoration project on Emma Creek.)
[Note: John Dawes serves as Executive Director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds.]
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