EPCAMR Involves “Watershed” High School Program from around Luzerne County in Solomon Creek’s Nockley Tributary Clean-ups and Stream Restoration Project

From May to November of 2013, the EPCAMR Staff, led by Executive Director, Robert Hughes and Watershed Outreach Intern, David Svab, along with local community support from a multitude of High School students involved in the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (PA DCNR) “Watershed” Community Connections Environmental Education Program led by Nescopeck State Park’s Environmental Education Specialist (EES) and long time colleague of EPCAMR’s Diane Madl, Lackawanna State Forest District’s EES, Angela Lambert, and the help of regional partners and landowners, finished multiple projects to clean-up and restore tributaries to the Solomon Creek Watershed. Before EPCAMR staff and volunteers performed the clean-ups, the waterways and surrounding trails were littered with garbage, tires, and fallen tree branches and woody debris blockages, leaving Class A Trout Streams on the Federal List of Impaired Waters. EPCAMR’s goal is to successfully complete native brook trout habitat restoration and stream improvement projects that will be successes in the watershed without compromising the integrity of the existing ecosystem and have been working hard to implement best management practices on the landscapes that the are working in. EPCAMR also worked closely with Aaron Stredny, Luzerne Conservation District Watershed Specialist, who partnered with EPCAMR on a PA Association of Conservation District’s Mini-Grant for $2000 to purchase tree seedlings for riparian streamside plantings along the erosive banks on Nockley’s Tributary to Solomon Creek and to put in rock energy dissipation pools at the end of a few stormwater pipes that dump non-point source stormwater into the tributary. Aaron and Robert conducted a Non-Point Source Education Program at the site with the students prior to them assisting us with a cleanup and the planting of 125 tree seedlings. EPCAMR also provided the Luzerne Conservation District with a $500 donation from the ARIPPA  trade association of Co-Generation Power Producers towards the effort. Yet another $300 has been dedicated to the development of a future sign at the Nockley’s Tributary Stream Restoration Project location that was donated by the South Wilkes-Barre Mini-Football Program, in honor of Mr. Abe Coolbaugh, who passed away, and has a son, who coaches for the mini-football program who wanted to see the funds used towards some conservation practices where his Father fished. Mr. Coolbaugh was a local conservationist and avid fisherman. See http://epcamr.org/home/2013/epcamr-to-honor-abe-coolbaugh-with-stream-restoration-dedication-in-summer-2013-within-the-solomon-creek-watershed/?preview=true&preview_id=2509&preview_nonce=da452e7e4c Many of these sites are within the 2.6 miles of Class A Trout Streams in the watershed and in the area of the 1.84 miles of Sugar Notch Run that we are proposing to the Commonwealth of PA to be delisted. EPCAMR has followed up with the PA DEP Bureau of Conservation and Restoration to request that they have their Water Pollution Biologists come out for a follow-up field visit to warrant the delisting from the Federal List of Impaired Waters. EPCAMR has already followed up with the PA Fish & Boat Commission as well and were informed that at the time of our request for assistance, their Office and Staff were overwhelmed with projects dealing with the Marcellus Shale, that they were not able to provide us with much technical assistance on determining the correct types and best suited habitat structures for many of the project locations that we had initially selected, so some of those larger projects were put on the backburner for future evaluation when they had the time available to assist us in the field. Over the course of the year, EPCAMR gained funding through staff members contributing $7,757.20, volunteers and partners contributing an additional $12,625.50 in matching funds of  time and additional grants. EPCAMR was also able to secure an $8,000 grant from PA American Water.  This funding allowed EPCAMR to complete 15 successful projects, resulting in clean-ups and restorations of Sugar Notch Run and Nockley’s Tributary in the Solomon Creek Watershed. 5 Tons (10,000 pounds) of trash were removed. Several hundred tires were removed. Some vandals even decided to set one pile on fire leaving us with 84 tires less than anticipated to be removed, but a pile of rubber rubble to deal with on one occasion. EPCAMR Executive Director, Robert Hughes, emphasized, “We saved the taxpayers and citizens of Hanover Twp., the City of Wilkes-Barre, and the landowners ALOT of money through our hard earned grant writing efforts and coordination of our volunteers and students that we utilize and work with throughout Luzerne County. If every municipality had a grant writer that went after grants as aggressively as we do for the public good and with the success rate that we’ve  had, there wouldn’t be so many environmental problems in our communities and they’d save  a lot of money.”

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Taken at SGl #207, this photo shows a blockage of tires and other man-made debris near the old concrete dam just above the double-wide railroad tunnel.

Dumpster Full

Dumpster Full

At Sugar Notch Run, EPCAMR addressed degradation issues such as woody debris blockages, sedimentation, trash and tire dumping, deep undercuts in stream banks, and other man-made blockages. EPCAMR also did a clean-up at State Game Lands #207 at Sugar Notch Run, where they removed tarps, gas canisters, sleeping bags, tires, and other trash that was creating blockages in the stream and impacting the natural habitat. After the blockages were removed, EPCAMR made sure to stabilize the creek and make sure that it had maintained its natural habitat features.

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EPCAMR Staff cleaned out debris from this stream channel at Sugar Notch Run, outside of Carey’s Patch, locally called by the kids, “Dead End Creek”, and left the log and downed tree in place for habitat. Water can flow around it and down over a step pool just below the log that you can see looking upstream.

While the Sugar Notch Run clean-up was a success, EPCAMR spent the majority of the Summer and early Fall cleaning and restoring Nockley’s Tributary, named for the family that owns the land that the tributary runs along until it comes to its confluence with Solomon Creek, just northeast of S. Main Street in Wilkes-Barre. Dave, owns Nockley’s Pharmacy, located on S. Main Street (Middle Road, Hanover Twp.) and Frank runs Northeast Cartage Services, (on Fellows Ave, Hanover Twp.). Both gentlemen allowed us to access their property at any time to conduct the work and they also contributed deep discounts for dumpsters that we needed while conducting our cleanups. They both were very open to our projects and were familiar with EPCAMR’s Executive Director, since Dave had played High School basketball with him during their high school days at the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), Wilkes-Barre, where both of them were outstanding basketball players under the now retired Coach John Hopkins.  Midway through June, EPCAMR, through collaboration with PA American Water Staff including John Yamona-Water Quality Manager and Susan Turcmanovich-Manager, began work on Nockley’s Tributary. This area was heavily littered with trash, illegal dumping, heavy sedimentation, stormwater drainage issues from antiquated drains, streambank erosion, and woody debris blockages causing flooding issues at the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church and a day-care, located adjacent to the tributary.

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Volunteers help to clean debris in preparation for a riparian corridor tree planting along the banks of Nockley’s Tributary during the restoration and clean-up.

One of the major features completed at the site was a riparian corridor planted with 125 native trees and nursery stock wetland plants in order to enhance and improve the fish passage and stream habitat that runs 2,640 feet from Nockley’s Tributary to Solomon Creek. Riparian corridors help to restore and improve stream habitat because they allow for native plants to help filter and trap sediment, preventing stream erosion and allowing for better water flow. EPCAMR staff along with the assistance of volunteers, David Svab- Watershed Outreach Intern, and Aaron Stredny-Watershed Specialist for the Luzerne Conservation District, completed the project over a period of 7 months.

Dawson Hughes (in orange) , EPCAMR Stream Cleanup Volunteer and oldest son of the Executive DIrector, who has been helping out since he was 8 years old and is now going on 14

Dawson Hughes (in orange) , EPCAMR Stream Cleanup Volunteer and oldest son of the Executive DIrector, who has been helping out since he was 8 years old and is now going on 14 with Wilkes University Colonels volunteers at a cleanup on Nockley’s Tributary.

EPCAMR knew that as we got further down in the watershed, the environmental degradation issues become more problematic and costly and will warrant much further details, investigations, surveys, and designs for future improvements. Woody debris provides many benefits to the stream ecosystem, but individual debris jams that we have investigated increased erosion or endangered roadways, bridges and personal property. In these cases, it was necessary to remove all of the jam to alleviate the problems. Removal decisions of the woody debris areas were subjective and were made individually, ultimately removing or altering only what is necessary. In the more forested areas, such structures remained intact to continually shape and change a stream channel as a natural process without interference.

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Watershed Specialist, Aaron Stredny, speaks to PA DCNR’s “Watershed” Education Program High School students from across Luzerne County who planted 125 trees along the banks of Nockley’s Tributary in the Fall 2013.

EPCAMR believes that the improvements they have accomplished so far will lead to further protection of the native brook trout population , as well as other warm water fisheries in the lower reaches of the watershed. Over time, the number of fish and aquatic life present in the watershed could possibly increase as a result of addressing areas with degradation issues. As of November 2013, EPCAMR still has funds available to continue to clean and restore the Solomon Creek Watershed. During Spring and Summer of 2014, EPCAMR Staff plans to monitor and evaluate the completed projects while continuing to work on projects that will result in cleaner water and streams, improved stream and riparian corridor habitat, stream bank stabilization, and a reduction in sediment loads and trash to the Solomon Creek watershed. EPCAMR knows how to create partnerships! See the list for these successful projects completed below: Nockley’s Pharmacy-landowner access Earth Conservancy-landowner access PA Game Commission-landowner access Northeast Cartage Services-landowner access and discounted pricing on hauling, dumpster roll-offs, and waste removal Mahantongo Scrap Tire Recycling, Liverpool, PA– removal and recycling of scrap tires, discount on hauling and price per tire for removal St. Peter’s Lutheran Church-landowner access, free parking, use of open space area for lunch breaks for EPCAMR Volunteers and students, use of restroom facilities, volunteer assistance from their Board of Trustees in removal and cutting of downed trees across Nockley’s Tributary, removal of brush piles Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority-inspection of sewer main at the confluence of Nockley’s Tributary before entering Solomon Creek Stanley Cooper Chapter of Trout Unlimited-provided volunteers (2) who assisted on July 1, 2013, with illegal dumping and tire removal from Nockley’s Tributary, served as a media outlet to their members to recruit additional volunteers to assist with the EPCAMR stream restoration projects Luzerne Conservation District-provided technical expertise and Staff to coordinate the stream restoration projects within the Solomon Creek Watershed with EPCAMR, secured additional funding and was awarded funding by EPCAMR towards projects, worked with EPCAMR on cleanup days, woody debris removal field events, tree plantings, and tire removal events; Chapter 102 review, Chapter 105 review, coordination with PA DEP PACD, Inc.-provided $2,000 funding towards the riparian tree plantings on Nockley’s Tributary and educational and outreach program on non-point source pollution and stream restoration ARIPPA-provided EPCAMR with $500 in funding that was awarded to the Luzerne Conservation District through our mini-grant program to purchase stone for energy dissipaters to be placed below antiquated stormwater culverts that are directed towards Nockley’s Tributary PA DCNR-Environmental Education Specialists coordinated a tree planting event with EPCAMR and the LCD with (40) students from different high schools within the Wyoming Valley and Hazleton Area on October 17, 2013 City of Wilkes-Barre, Ashley Borough, and Hanover Township-supportive of our efforts within the Solomon Creek Watershed to implement recommendations with funding that was not from the local taxpayers and assisted with prioritizing future cleanup efforts within the watershed within their municipalities PA  DEP, Wilkes-Barre Regional Office-provided EPCAMR and the LCD on guidance as to the need for any necessary permits for our projects Wilkes University-(36) Freshman College students participated in a coordinated stream-side cleanup and tire removal event on July 15, 2013; Coordinated with Megan Boone Valkenburg, Civic Engagement Coordinator; They were unable to make the July 1, 2013 event due to rain and bus scheduling EPCAMR Community Service Volunteers-(11) total participated in the cleanups on July 1, and July 15, 2013 that were registered through American Rivers (www.AmericanRivers.org/Cleanup) Nanticoke Junior Trojans Youth Football Program Players– 11, 12, & 13 year old football players (7 of them) and Jill Williams, mother of one of the players, volunteered on the September 21st, 2013 cleanup event that was coordinated with Michelle Dunn from Keep PA Beautiful in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup South Wilkes-Barre Mini-Football Program-provided a $300 donation towards our restoration efforts in honor of a local conservationist and avid fisherman, Mr. Abe Coolbaugh, who passed away, and has a son, who coaches for the mini-football program who wanted to see the funds used towards some conservation practices where his Father fished Keep PA Beautiful-provided EPCAMR with publicity, garbage bags, and gloves; (www.KeepPABeautiful.org) International Coastal Cleanup and Ocean Conservancy-provided outreach and publicity on their website for volunteer recruitment of our cleanup events and garbage bags and gloves to our PA registered cleanup events through Keep PA Beautiful ( http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/international-coastal-cleanup/ ) American Rivers-provided EPCAMR with trash bags and outreach and publicity on their website for volunteer recruitment and provided EPCAMR with a free year long membership for registering our cleanups for the 2013 National River Cleanup participation ( www.americanrivers.org ) EPCAMR promoted our project through our Social Media Page on FaceBook (Search EPCAMR) and created events along with notifications to our volunteer base to come out and assist with our local projects. EPCAMR coordinated with Wilkes University, Stanley Cooper Chapter Trout Unlimited, Nanticoke Junior Trojans Youth Football Program, and the PA DCNR to create events that a large group of students could attend to assist us with as well.

EPCAMR received media coverage from Ch. 16-WNEP when we coordinated our second cleanup on July 15, 2013. (http://wnep.com/2013/07/15/getting-dirty-to-clean-up-the-creek/) PA American Water provided a news release on their website about the project and others that were funded:

PACD prepared an article on the projects that they funded state-wide, including the one for the Luzerne Conservation District, in partnership with EPCAMR:

Brendan Gibbons, Environmental Beat Reporter for the Scranton Times-Tribune and the Citizen’s Voice covered a story for the newspaper on our project and also participated in a cleanup as a volunteer. Article is below:

  • http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/timesshamrock/doc/1399978542.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Jul+15%2C+2013&author=&pub=Citizens%27+Voice&edition=&startpage=&desc=Water+Quality+Projects+Are+Worthy+Endeavours  (archived article-costs $$)

Tom Venesky, Outdoors Writer with the Times-Leader Newspaper, prepared an article on our work in the Solomon Creek Watershed:

These projects were the first of its kind in the Solomon Creek, particularly in the native brook trout fishery headwaters and tributaries of the watershed.  EPCAMR will make periodic trips to the sites once completed to check on the long-term stability of the structures installed and constructed. EPCAMR will seek the support of avid people who fish in the area to report back on how the structures are holding up and if the areas are remaining free of debris, storm flow debris, tires, illegal dumping, trash, and sedimentation. EPCAMR will advise private landowners to check on the areas worked on periodically to report back to EPCAMR, however, should additional work or maintenance be needed, the financial burden would have to fall on the landowner. If areas are determined to be private, EPCAMR will work with the landowners to see if visitation to the project sites can be made open to the public use through a conservation easement, right-of-way access agreement, or hold-harmless agreement. EPCAMR has a well-established partnership with the Stanley Cooper Chapter of Trout Unlimited in the Wyoming Valley, whose members are always willing to assist private landowners with improvement their property, including fish habitat and restoration work.

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