Stream restored in Fish and Boat Commission’s backyard

Digital Originals

(WHTM) — Since Mid-November, a stream next to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Headquarters has been getting a makeover.

“What they’re doing is restoring an extremely eroded and degraded stream bank,” Tim Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Commission said. The project became necessary because increased development in the area has increased stormwater runoff.

“Every time it would rain, there would be hundreds of thousands of pounds of sediment that would be washing straight down the stream,” Schaeffer said. The stormwater literally gouged out the stream bed. “The banks were so incised they were literally over your head.”

Reconstructing the streambed took a series of steps. “they got rid of those high cut banks, really leveled everything out,” Schaeffer said. “Install some structures than help the stream recapture its natural path, the way it would normally flow, get that stream channel back in place, allow some plunge pools that can sort of naturally dissipate the stream as it’s flowing, and then, once the project and stream is finished, we’ll be installing native plants and shrubs to provide both stream bank stabilization as well as native wildlife habitat.”

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“What they’re doing” he adds, “Is restoring the sinuosity, the meandering of the stream, back to a more natural condition, also assuring wetlands there so when you do get rain, the stream can sort of go out of its banks, find that wetland complex, and reabsorb back into the ground, rather than all flowing downstream at once.”

The commission’s gone to a lot of effort to inform the public about what’s been going on-including sending us videos of work in progress. Which may all seem kind of unusual given that technically speaking, they’re not part of the project.

“This project is actually being funded by Susquehanna Township, Lower Paxton Township, and PennDOT, as a way to meet state and local stormwater management requirements.” Schaeffer explains, “So it’s on our property, it’s their project, but we’re happy to be the host.”

But while it’s not their project, healthy streams are certainly one of their areas of concern.

“Once this is completed it will reduce the sediment load to the river and the bay by about a million pounds a year,” Schaeffer said. “So when you do something like this, it’s not just the smallmouth bass and the trout that benefit from it, there are hundreds and hundreds of non-game species, that you don’t hunt or fish for in Pennsylvania, that will benefit from a project like this.”

The project should wrap up sometime in December. Schaeffer would like to see more such projects happen, on public and private lands.

“There’s nothing we could be doing that’s more important for the Susquehanna river, than trying to control what flows into it, and this is a good step in the right direction.”

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