Trout Unlimited expanded its successful abandoned mine drainage (AMD) planning and remediation efforts for the Kettle Creek Home Rivers Initiative and launched the West Branch Susquehanna Restoration Initiative in central and northcentral Pennsylvania in 2004. The comprehensive assessment, strategic planning, and prioritized remediation program that Trout Unlimited and its partners developed for the Kettle Creek watershed is used as a model for this initiative. Similar to TU's role in the Kettle Creek Home Rivers Initiative, TU's main objective is to act as a catalyst and work with government agency and grassroots partners toward establishing a comprehensive, prioritized watershed plan aimed at the restoration of coldwater streams and the ultimate recovery of the West Branch.
The West Branch Susquehanna River basin contains some of the most scenic forestland in Pennsylvania and is dominated by public state forest and game lands, with a few small urban centers scattered throughout. The West Branch watershed, home to three distinct ecoregions (Northern Appalachian Plateau Uplands, North Central Appalachians, and Central Appalachian Ridges and Valleys), is truly a gem nestled in the Commonwealth's interior that has the tremendous potential to provide a mecca of outdoor recreational opportunities - at least this is what would be available if it were not for the pollution left behind from historic unregulated coal mining activities that once provided a boon to local industry and economics. Unfortunately, the legacy that remains today is in the form of AMD, which is the largest source of pollution to waterways throughout the West Branch and Pennsylvania. More than 1,200 stream miles within the West Branch are severely impacted, with many streams essentially lifeless, due to toxic concentrations of metals and acidity from the AMD.
The potential for fishery restoration on all AMD impacted streams throughout the West Branch is phenomenal due to the fact that each stream has been assessed as a potential trout-stocking, high quality coldwater fishery, or exceptional value stream and the headwaters of most streams above the AMD are classified as Class A wild trout fisheries. As seen in the Kettle Creek watershed, water quality degradation is the only source of impairment throughout most of the West Branch watersheds and the physical stream habitat is already in relatively good condition. Nevertheless, removing the high concentrations of toxic metals and neutralizing the pH of the AMD polluted water is without doubt an expensive proposition that easily translates into the hundreds of millions. At the same time, successful restoration efforts across the West Branch are already yielding positive economic benefits that in turn translate into a better way of life for the local communities.
For More Information:
Director, Eastern Abandoned Mine Program
Email Amy Wolfe
Manager, Eastern Abandoned Mine Program
Email Rebecca Dunlap
Project Coordinator, Eastern Abandoned Mine Program
Email Rachel Kester
Shawn Rummel, PhD
Field&Research Coordinator, Eastern Abandoned Mine Program
Email Shawn Rummel
Education Coordinator, Eastern Abandoned Mine Program
Email Rebecca Holler