By Amy Wolfe
Director, Eastern Abandoned Mine Program & Pa. Eastern Brook Trout Habitat Initiative
Yesterday was one of those perfect weather days to spend along Kettle Creek, with temperatures in the mid-70s and not a cloud in the sky.
It made for a great day for Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., to visit some of the projects TU has been working on over the past 15 years in this beautiful part of Northcentral Pennsylvania.
The tour made a positive impression on the congressman, who took to Twitter on Monday to post several pictures from the day, and praise, among other things, the “great outcomes with #AML &conservation investments.”
One of the projects we toured was a 100-acre abandoned coal mine surface reclamation project in the lower Kettle Creek watershed. In partnership with the local Kettle Creek Watershed Association, TU has installed multiple treatment systems to remediate the acid mine drainage and as a result, native brook trout are recovering and reproducing in streams that were once completely dead.
However, land reclamation still has to occur in order to address one of the last remaining sources of mine drainage to this lower section of Kettle Creek. Thankfully, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is helping to make this happen with a $12.2 million contract they awarded – one of the largest ever awarded in the commonwealth – to reclaim this abandoned surface mine and amend the acid-producing rock with over 365,000 tons of alkaline materials.
In the midst of tri-axles coming and going and large dozers moving huge amounts of earth to regrade the land, it was a great opportunity to be able to talk with Congressman Thompson about how abandoned mine cleanup work benefits not only the fish and the environment, but also the local and regional economy.
Driving up into the middle section of the Kettle Creek watershed, far away from any abandoned mines or mine drainage, we visited the “Headgate” fish habitat and streambank stabilization project on Kettle Creek.
We actually had to drive past the project site the first time because all of the parking spots alongside the road pullout were already taken by anglers. Fortunately, as we approached it a second time, we found a small spot to safely squeeze into. At the Headgate site we took a look at how in-stream structures were designed and installed to prevent the creek from eroding into the adjacent highway while at the same time providing optimal habitat for trout.
As we talked to an angler who mentioned that he was not from the area, but routinely visits Kettle Creek to fish – adding that he loved that particular project site -- and utilize local lodging facilities, it was once again evident how coldwater habitat projects such as these provide a great return on the initial investment in both environmental and economic benefits.
So now I have to get back to work on paperwork for next year’s budget and planning for some upcoming projects. Reflecting upon a nice day like yesterday spent with Congressman Thompson and helping him to see first-hand some of the results and benefits of TU’s work helps to make a day’s work behind the desk more bearable.