Ebensburg stream upgrades planned

Borough grants group access to municipal land

Conservation-minded anglers are a step closer to improving an Ebensburg stream bank after borough leaders agreed Monday to grant them access to municipal land.

Butch Kerchenske of Mountain Laurel Trout Unlimited addressed Borough Council members at an evening meeting, where he disclosed plans for stream bank stabilization and trout habitat improvements along a portion of Howells Run.

Last year, the group conducted similar work to improve a stretch of the stream along Manor Drive near Festival Beverage.

“The goal was to enhance habitat for spawning and stream bank stabilization,” Kerchenske said.

Now, Kerchenske said his group sees an opportunity to move that work upstream toward a nearby baseball field.

Past construction practices and stormwater runoff have taken a toll on the local stream, where erosion and sedimentation have become problematic, he said.

Reversing or slowing those effects is the goal of the improvement project proposed by Mountain Laurel Trout Unlimited, which is a regional chapter of the nation Trout Unlimited organization.

The local group, Kerchenske said, is comprised of anglers, who hope to preserve trout fishing for future generations.

“We want the stream to flow where it’s naturally supposed to flow,” he said.

The borough owns the property surrounding the stretch of Howells Run targeted by the current proposal.

On Monday, Kerchenske asked council members if his group could access the borough’s land to gain entry the stream.

The answer was yes, with council members voting unanimously to grant access.

“We appreciate your efforts,” council President Doug Tusing said.

On Tuesday, Kerchenske said he and other group members now plan to work with a “regional habitat structure specialist” to conduct a site visit and create an improvement design.

The project also will need approval from the state’s Fish & Boat Commission and Department of Environmental Protection.

This year’s project will affect about 100 to 150 feet along the stream, Kerchenske said.

“It’s rather small for one of our projects, but it would tie in nicely to what we have done there,” he said.

Last year’s project cost the group about $4,500. This year’s should cost closer to $3,000, Kerchenske said.

To cover costs, Mountain Laurel Trout Unlimited members host an annual banquet. This year’s will be held March 24 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Johnstown.

If money is raised and permits are approved, a project budget will be drafted and work could be completed by late summer, Kerchenske said, explaining rehabilitation likely would begin in September.

“That’s a little later than some of our projects, but there is a unique issue because there are ballfields there,” he said.

Kerchenske said members of his group will work with local baseball league officials to ensure the project won’t interfere with games.

Howells Run feeds Lake Rowena, and Kerchenske explained the importance of maintaining the stream, which offers cool moving and sometimes shaded water for fish that could overheat in the lake.

“They need a refuge,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.