Thompson Run, a high quality and important coldwater tributary to Spring Creek, is the lucky recipient of more habitat work this summer. The major beneficiaries will be the wild trout that live in this stream, with a secondary benefit to the anglers who fish for them. Two projects are planned — both continuations of previous stream habitat work.
Many partners have been and continue to be involved: national, state and local Trout Unlimited, Penn State University, PennDOT, the Coldwater Heritage Partnership, State College Area School District’s Delta Program, PSU students from the Society of Environmental Engineers and PSU Fly Fishing Club, Rothrock State Forest, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Centre County Conservation District and local businesses including Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., Pinnacle Erosion Control, Dantes Inc. and Blaise Alexander.
In 2015, local angler John Ford contacted national Trout Unlimited’s stream habitat coordinator Phil Thomas about the severe erosion that he observed along Thompson Run in the area of Blaise Alexander Chrysler-Jeep dealership on East College Avenue in College Township, just outside State College. The stream was cutting away at its banks, adding silt to Thompson Run, Slab Cabin Run and Spring Creek and endangering the very busy College Ave.
Ford, who is also president of the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team, secured a $4,000 Coldwater Heritage Grant to kick-start the project and then set out to involve other partners and secure donations. Thomas designed the habitat project and received approval last spring. Work began in the early fall of 2016, with the construction of several mudsills and deflectors. Additional habitat devices and plantings were done in May of this year.
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“Hawbaker donated and delivered 40 tons of stone,” Ford said, “Rothrock State Forest donated the hemlock logs, PennDOT provided more stone, manpower and heavy equipment, and a crew from Pinnacle was on site for several days.
“The Delta program has made this part of their science curriculum, and students rotated between water chemistry, aquatic macro-invertebrate and habitat work stations. They were pounding rebar, as well as positioning logs and rocks. Ann Donovan from the Centre County Conservation District was on site several days, working with the students making riparian plantings.”
Thomas expanded on the benefits of the project.
“We stopped erosion and the flow of sediment into the streams, and the habitat project will likely result in an increase in trout biomass in that area,” Thomas said. “However, the biggest impact was on the students who helped. I think that this life lesson really hits home with most of the kids. Some had never done this type of manual labor before, and they had fun and felt good about what they accomplished.”
According to Ford and Thomas, the final stage of their project will occur just above the dealership on land owned by Dantes Inc., where more erosion is occurring and a utility pole is in danger of falling. Work will likely occur in July after the undermined pole is removed by Verizon.
Mark Taylor, Eastern Communications Director for National Trout Unlimited, was in State College earlier this month and toured the project with me. Taylor was happy to see the new plantings greening up and how well the habitat devices were functioning.
Another habitat project is occurring farther upstream at the Penn State-owned Duck Pond. Last September, volunteers from Trout Unlimited’s Spring Creek Chapter cleared brush and removed debris from the dike and stream channel. That is supposed to allow Thompson Run’s cold water to bypass the warming effects from Duck Pond. However, time and the elements had taken a toll on this nearly 40-year-old dike. It had been breached in several areas and badly needed repairs. This project was started by noted angler and former Penn State fly-fishing instructor Joe Humphreys in 1977.
Last September, Penn State tackled the more difficult job of removing larger trees that blocked the repair of the dike. A crane and other heavy equipment was needed for university arborists to remove the trees.
The Trout Unlimited chapter and Penn State received praise for their efforts, with the Spring Creek Chapter receiving the coveted Golden Trout award last fall.
According to chapter president Bob Vierck, work stopped last fall before the Oct. 1 deadline imposed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for in-stream work. Stream disturbance caused by the project could disrupt wild trout that spawn in the fall.
“The next phase, to be completed this summer, involves repairing and hardening the dike separating Thompson Run from the Duck Pond. Work will also be done on the storm water channel that leads into Duck Pond,” Vierck said. “It is my understanding this will be all Penn State, because it is not safe for our volunteers to work near the heavy equipment. We are supposed to be briefed on project details on July 17, and I’ll know more.”
Cold, sediment-free water is paramount to the health and natural reproduction of wild trout. By summer’s end, colder and clearer water should flow down Thompson Run, into Slab Cabin Run and on into Spring Creek — a world-class fishery. Thanks to all of the organizations, agencies, companies and volunteers of all ages who helped to make this a reality.
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com