FERGUSON TOWNSHIP Centre Region officials have been invited to spend a day with local trout.
Jason Detar, area fisheries manager for the state Fish and Boat Commission, extended the invitation to officials who are wary of a commission study last year showing Slab Cabin Run is a Class A Wild Trout stream and should be designated by the state Department of Environmental Protection as high quality.
The latter designation most worries local officials, related to more stringent state regulations that could limit local efforts to protect and improve the stream, based on limits to discharge of the region’s beneficial reuse water.
Some worry that Fish and Boat didn’t use a large enough sample size, due to a particularly wet season, so Detar offered, during a Council of Governments Public Services and Environmental Committee meeting this week, to demonstrate for officials how the sampling works.
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“Sampling did occur in 2012,” he said. “At a minimum we saw five age classes of fish.”
Despite the larger flows, Detar said that proves reproduction was happening and that it’s not uncommon for a stream to be dry one year and considered Class A the next.
Some officials have supported an idea suggested by Cory Miller, executive director of the University Area Joint Authority. He said the region could fund its own scientific study of the stream and submit it to the state.
Dave Spotts, chief of Fish and Boat Environmental Services, said he’s lived in Lemont 30 years and could “probably count on one hand the number of times it’s been dry above there.” He said Fish and Boat would not use the data from a submitted study.
“If you don’t believe what we’ve found, we’ll take you out,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to spend money to make a point.”
Tony Shaw, of DEP Point and Non-Point Source Management, agreed that his agency also wouldn’t use third-party data and that there would be a concern about differing methodologies.
“If we receive a consultant’s data contradicting the results, it’s not part of our criteria process because ours is based on the Class A passed by (Fish and Boat) commissioners,” Shaw said.
Local officials were glad to have the state officials in town and all agreed the dialogue should continue. The DEP has said, and officials this week reiterated, that there’s no time frame for a decision on the high-quality designation.
“I think meeting again is a good idea,” said Jim May, director of the Centre Regional Planning Agency. “As the decision process moves along, it would be nice to continue these discussions for peace of mind.”
Miller suggested, and some others supported, creating a team of stakeholders to do that, noting that a similar group made happen the region’s beneficial reuse program, which uses reverse osmosis to make wastewater pure.
“We all got together,” Miller said. “We dreamed this darn thing up together. That’s what we need to do this time — dream the next part of this thing and make it happen.”
For Miller, one of the key problems is that state regulations still consider the purified water “sewage,” which then limits how much can augment high-quality streams.
“The department, from the permitting standpoint, is interested in common-sense solutions,” said Marcus Kohl, DEP director for the region that includes Centre County. “If there’s a way we can show the discharge or beneficial reuse is not going to impact the quality of that stream, and improve it, that’s where we want to get.”
Kohl added that discussion should become more detailed.
Committee Chairman and Harris Township Supervisor Denny Hameister said this week’s discussion was a good start.
“What we’ve done today is a very regional type of discussion,” he said. “It’s been a learning experience for all of us and I think we uncovered some really good opportunities to proceed from a municipal perspective and a stakeholder perspective.”