DEP dishes out $18.7M for watershed projects

Several local projects were among recipients of Department of Environmental Protection grants for watershed remediation and acid mine drainage problems.

In Blair County, The Trust for Tomorrow environmental group received $272,600 for stream restoration work along Poplar Run and the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River.

Located in Hyde County, N.C., the nonprofit organization works with the Blair County Conservation District on habitat conservation and environmental stewardship programs in Pennsylvania, said April Temple, Trust for America executive director.

The DEP grant was matched with funds from the Blair County Conservation District, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and other partners, Temple said.

“This is the biggest project that we’ve worked on so far,” Temple said.

Previously, Trust for America helped to restore wetlands on a 127-acre property adjacent to the waterways, Temple said. Being able to work on the portion of the stream that runs along the property was a rare chance to restore the total habitat of the area, Temple said.

Workers will install 100-foot buffers and plant trees along about 14,500 feet of the streams’ banks, Temple said. The work will help to reduce sediment erosion and restore the overall quality of the watershed, she said.

The project is the middle step in restoring the area, said Donna Fisher, conservation district director. She said conservation district officials hope to install trails and educational material along one side of the stream in a future project.

The actual erosion project should prevent sediment runoff from entering the stream, Fisher said.

Like most streams in Blair County, both Poplar Run and the Frankstown Branch eventually flow into the Susquehanna River, Fisher said.

The Cambria County Conservation District was awarded $65,512 to clean the West Branch of the Susquehanna, said Mark Stockley, a conservation district official.

The money will help to fund two projects along the river, Stockley said. An acid mine discharge polluting the waterway will be captured and pumped away for treatment, he said. And workers will use fly ash to cap the Barnes-Watkins refuse pile, which releases harmful contaminants into the environment, he said.

“We’re all about trying to improve the water quality,” Stockley said.

The authority was also awarded a $16,580 grant for sediment remediation at Glendale Lake. Workers will stabilize the shoreline using rock piles in a “sawtooth deflector” pattern, which helps to improve quality along the shoreline as well as provide a natural habitat for wildlife, Stockley said.

“Protecting the waters of the commonwealth is key to DEP’s mission,” said Mike Krancer, DEP secretary, in a press release. “Providing these grants is a major component of continued excellence in water quality.”

Other local grants included $244,720 awarded to the Wysox Creek Watershed Association for a project along Bullard Creek in Bedford County and $535,733 awarded to the Clearfield Creek Watershed Association for a project along Laurel Run in Cambria County, according to DEP.

Various organizations in Centre County were awarded about $429,000 in grants for four separate projects, and the Huntingdon County Conservation District was awarded about $749,005 for two watershed projects.

A total of 106 grants totaling just over $19 million were awarded statewide.

Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.