When Jeff Ripple was a young boy, there was a special spring day.
“The first day of Pennsylvania’s trout season was like Christmas,” recalled Ripple, a 53-year-old from Berlin. “I couldn’t sleep the night before.”
While he fondly remembers his trips to those pretty creeks in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, Ripple also remembers that not every creek was full of trout.
“We’re in the heart of coal country and I’ve seen what happened with a lot of the abandoned mine drainage and the pollution of streams,” he said. “I’ve seen streams that you wouldn’t want to walk in, let alone fish in.”
Things are better and Ripple wants to see that continue. That’s why he’s in Washington, D.C., this week meeting with elected officials and urging them to stand up for clean water.
“It’s important for people to realize what we have in terms of natural resources,” said Ripple, chairman of the environmental committee for Pennsylvania’s TU council. “And to know what can be lost and, potentially, never brought back.”
A surveyor by trade, Ripple owns his own consulting business. He’s also a part-time fishing guide.
His work and his passion give him a wide perspective on clean water.
“When I started getting into detailed permitting work, that’s when it finally got to really understand what’s beneficial for streams, and what’s detrimental,” said Ripple, who supports the EPA’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts to more clearly define protections of intermittent and headwaters streams under the Clean Water Act.
On a recent day, Ripple and a friend enjoyed outstanding fly fishing for wild rainbows on a Pennsylvania stream that was once too polluted to support trout, or aquatic life of any kind.
He’d like to see that trend of water quality improvement continue, not only so he can keep enjoying those kinds of outings, but so that kids in future generations can continue to enjoy sleepless nights before opening day.