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Swatara Falls, Swatara Creek Watershed A view of a small unnamed tributary in the Tri-Valley Watershed

Wayne G. Lehman
Watershed of Schuylkill County
Watershed Specialist
(570)622-3742, ext. 120
wlehman@co.schuylkill.pa.us


What is a watershed? A watershed is a geographic area in which water, sediments, and dissolved materials drain into a common water body such as a stream, lake, aquifer, estuary, or ocean. The watershed includes the land as well as the water body. Buildings, roads, and parking lots are all part of the watershed.

Why should we care about our watersheds, and why should we want to protect them? People work, play, and live within a watershed, and their every day activities affect their watershed. Many people's drinking supply is located within their watershed. Environmental and economic potential of the landscape and community is affected by the quality of the watershed.

Schuylkill County has numerous watersheds throughout the county. The majority of the watersheds originate within the county, and we are at the headwaters of the watersheds. What happens within our county not only affects many people who reside within the county, but it also affects many people who live downstream of us. There are some watershed organizations and restoration associations that have banded together with a common interest to protect and restore the health of our watersheds. I feel it is necessary to showcase some of the great work that these groups are doing to improve the environment, and inform the public that these groups are in existence within our county.

Catawissa Creek Restoration Association

The Catawissa Creek Restoration Association was formed in 1997, and is working to reduce or eliminate stream pollution, and improve stream habitat for organisms. The CCRA is involved with the Oneida #1 project at Eagle Rock Resort Area. This project is a passive treatment system to treat abandoned mine drainage (AMD), which has caused the Catawissa Creek to be a stream devoid of any animals life. The project will treat the water, which will raise the pH of the water, and increase the alkalinity of the water. This project will significantly improve the quality of the Sugarloaf, Tomhicken, and Catawissa Creeks along with Lake Choctaw. The association is also working with similar acid mine drainage improvement projects at the Audenreid and Green Mountain Tunnels. The association is also expanding upon its watershed-monitoring program, as well as planning for stream cleanups in the near future. If you would like more information on the group, contact Ed Wytovich, President at (570) 875-3993.

Mahanoy Creek Watershed Association

The Mahanoy Creek Watershed Association is working to improve the quality of the Mahanoy Creek, which flows 56 miles from its origin to where it empties to the Susquehanna River. The association is involved with a large tract of land that was converted to wetlands as a passive treatment system to treat AMD in the Mahanoy Creek. This wetland area has been nicknamed "The Swamp" and has been featured on the DEP website under "The Swamp". The association has had some very successful stream cleanups at Ashland, Girardville, and Helfenstein where approximately 60-85 people participated in each cleanup. They have also helped to form the Lens on Litter Program. They have applied for funding from DEP for a watershed assessment of the Mahanoy Creek Watershed. For further information you may contact Ed Wytovich, President, at (570) 875-3993.

Northern Swatara Creek Watershed Association

The Northern Swatara Creek Watershed Association has been working hand in hand with the Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Mining and Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation; as well as the Schuylkill County Conservation District. The US Geological Survey has also been an integral part of water testing in the Swatara Watershed. In 1990 electro- shocking results found no life in the Swatara Creek at Ravine. In 1994 and 1996 six species of fish were discovered. Subsequent year numbers totaled 15, 17, 21 and 24 species of fish in the year 2000.

The water quality has improved enough to allow the first ever stocking of trout in the year 2000. The Northern Swatara Creek Watershed Association is a cooperator in the Swatara Cooperative Trout Nursery. Over 3,400 trout were raised and released in the main branch of the Swatara, as well as the Upper and Lower Little Swatara's. Sweet Arrow Lake also received a stocking for ice fishing.

A number of projects that are currently ongoing including many being conducted by DEP, Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation. Middle Creek, which currently flows into a stripping pit is being put back to its original channel. Also, a number of strip mines are being reclaimed in the Tremont area, as well as a couple wetland treatment systems are being planned. For further information on the association contact Robert Evanchalk at (570) 345-4048.

Schuylkill Headwaters Association

The Schuylkill Headwaters Association (SHA) is committed to protect, preserve, and restore the Schuylkill River watershed in Schuylkill County, which encompasses the West Branch, Main Branch, and the Little Schuylkill River. The SHA has just completed a watershed assessment on the Upper Tributaries of the Schuylkill River. This assessment has provided the association with vital information on problems or priorities within the watershed, as well as possible remediation strategies for these priority sites. The group has also contracted to conduct a watershed assessment for the Little Schuylkill River, which will be proceeding this winter and into next year. The SHA has also taken on the Glen Dower project, which will aid in cleaning up the river by preventing water from coming in contact with mine workings, which would degrade the quality of the water significantly. The SHA is also planning more AMD abatement projects in the future. For more information you may contact Bill Reichert at (570) 385-2122.

Tri-Valley Watershed Association

The Tri-Valley Watershed Association is dedicated to improving water quality, and preventing soil erosion and sediment pollution in their watershed. Their watershed encompasses the Deep, Pine, and Mahantango Creeks, which also flow through Northumberland and Dauphin Counties. The association has been improving the watershed by placing limestone within the Hans Yost stream, which is degraded due to AMD. The group has also been actively involved with giving informational presentations to high schools on watershed conservation and water quality. They have also received water quality monitoring equipment through grant money. They are also planning to do a watershed assessment in the near future. For more information you can contact Pam Ulicny, President.

Wiconisco Creek Restoration Association

The Wiconisco Creek Restoration Association (WCRA) has been actively working to improve the water quality the Wiconisco Creek Watershed since 1997. The Wiconisco Creek has a problem with abandoned mine drainage. The WCRA has been working diligently to try to remediate some of these AMD problems. They have applied limestone sand directly to the West Branch of Rattling Creek at four different places to combat the affects of acid precipitation. They have a working diversion well through which limestone is added to the stream near the Porter Tunnel. The WCRA has been purchasing limestone for the sand dosing and diversion wells through grant money. The WCRA also has water quality monitoring equipment, which is used to monitor throughout the entire watershed. They are gathering data from the monitoring, and informing the public of its findings and the health of the watershed. They have also had a massive tree planting of over 5,000 trees and shrubs as a riparian buffer. They have also conducted stream cleanups as well. To contact the WCRA call the Dauphin County Conservation District, Charlie McGarrell at (717) 921-8100.

The Watershed Associations that were just described are doing an excellent job at helping to protect and restore our watersheds within the county. They are also doing a great job informing the public and schools on the issues of watershed conservation. The associations could always use some new ideas, fresh faces, and more community involvement. The associations meet every month or every other month to discuss issues and projects within their watersheds. If you have any questions, concerns, or would like more information on the groups or their respective watersheds they would be happy to provide you with the information.



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Small Waterfalls in the Swatara Creek Watershed

FINISHED PROJECTS

  Bell Colliery