Thursday, December 22, 2022

PA Trout: Federal STREAM Mine Reclamation Act Advocacy At National Wild Trout Symposium Highlights Trip West

By Kelly Williams, Watershed Specialist,
Clearfield County Conservation District

In my position as the watershed specialist with the Clearfield County Conservation District, my primary responsibility is the restoration of streams from abandoned mine drainage (AMD).

To do so I secure grants to study discharges and to design and construct passive treatment systems to remediate AMD. 

Thus far, my partners and I have restored wild trout to dozens of streams in Clearfield County alone. Similar success stories can be shared by others throughout Pennsylvania.

Until recently, the funding for AMD reclamation projects has been dwindling.

But passage of the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) last November dedicated substantial federal funding to AMD and AML reclamation, $11 billion dollars to be divided among states with the most AMD and AML issues. 

Pennsylvania will be receiving approximately $244 million each year.

However, the infrastructure law has an end date and will run out in 15 years.

What financial resources will be available to maintain treatment systems built with this funding beyond that timeframe?

What will happen to the water quality improvements achieved if treatment systems can’t be maintained? 

A solution to these problems has been developed in the form of the STREAM Act. 

Currently under consideration by the US Congress to amend BIL, this crucial piece of legislation will allow states to set aside up to 30% of this funding each year for ongoing operation and maintenance of AMD and AML projects beyond 15 years.

This legislation has already passed the House but is currently held up in committee in the Senate. Unfortunately, this late in the year, time is running out for this act to be passed by the Senate before they adjourn until next year.  If that happens, this act goes back to square one essentially and the process to get it passed starts all over again.

[UPDATE: The U.S. Senate amended and passed the STREAM Act on December 15 and it is now awaiting final action in the U.S. House.  Read more here.]

Without substantial influence from your legislators, the STREAM Act is just waiting in the wings.

Advocacy for this issue has been a primary focus of both the Western and Eastern  PA Regional Coalitions for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (WPCAMR and EPCAMR) and the PA AML Campaign.

I’ve had the honor to work with all of them in my time as watershed specialist being on the board of WPCAMR and a participant in the AML Campaign.

It’s through these connections that I was recently given the chance to represent the Clearfield County Conservation District, WPCAMR and PA Trout Unlimited at the Wild Trout Symposium this year in West Yellowstone, Mont.

I partnered with Andy McAllister, regional coordinator of WPCAMR to present a poster on the importance of BIL and the STREAM Act to symposium attendees from across the United States and encourage them to contact their own Senators to support this legislation.

With the theme “Reducing the Gap Between Science and Public Opinion” it was a good forum for sharing the importance of AMD and AML reclamation to wild trout restoration as well as the importance of the STREAM Act.

There were several days of presentations at the event covering public engagement, species management, invasives control, special regulations, molecular studies, and monitoring techniques. 

Participants came from across the U.S., with speakers attending from numerous states including Washington, Idaho, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and others.

It was interesting to hear of management  techniques from other states, advances in genetic technology, and the results of recovery efforts of species ranging from Pacific steelhead, cutthroat, brown trout and brook trout. 

This was also my first trip west, so I was also able to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, which was pretty amazing! If you’ve never seen either park, I highly recommend you take the time to visit.

Learn More

To learn more about the STREAM Act and how you can continue to reach out to your representatives to support it, please visit the PA AML Campaign website. 

And to learn more about BIL, visit the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law webpage.

For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the PA Council of Trout Unlimited website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates (top of page).  Like them on FacebookFollow PATU on Twitter.   Click Here to become a member.  Click Here to support their work.

Trout Unlimited has over 15,700 members in Pennsylvania.

Kelly Williams is the Western Executive VP with PA Council of Trout Unlimited, Watershed Specialist with the Clearfield County Conservation District, on the Board of the Western PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, and on the Board of the Allegheny Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

(Reprinted from the PA Council of Trout Unlimited newsletterClick Here to sign up for your own copy.)

Related Article:

-- Appalachian Voices: U.S. Senate Passes Amended STREAM Mine Reclamation Act And Sends It Back House

[Posted: December 22, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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