Mark Nale: Afield | Trout Unlimited to hold stream habitat days in Milesburg

Tons of large rocks and dozens of hemlock logs are piled along Spring Creek near the Commercial Street bridge in Milesburg on June 24-25 will be in-stream work days for volunteers from the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited. After many hours of preparation by chapter members, president Judi Sittler is anxious for the project to get underway.

“This is the perfect opportunity for anyone to watch stream restoration in action,” noted Sittler, of Lemont. “Stream work will begin at 8:30, Monday morning, and continue on Tuesday morning. The public is welcome to come and see what this is all about. In fact, we’d love it if they’d come. We are also offering something new to attract youngsters. We call it ‘Buffer Buddies.’”

A large tent set up at the Milesburg Community Park will house chapter members teaching knot tying, aquatic insect identification, healthy stream parameters and fly casting. This Buffer Buddies program is scheduled for 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., on both Monday and Tuesday. A lunch of hotdogs, cookies and drinks will be provided. Both the activities and lunch are free. Every youth will receive a free, “I’m a Buffer Buddy,” sticker.

“This will be informal, with people watching the habitat work and spending as much time at the stations as they please,” Sittler said. “We hope that families will learn a little about the importance of vegetated stream buffers to a healthy stream and have fun in the process.”

According to TU project manager Bob Vierck, 115 tons of number 5 limestone riprap were delivered to the Milesburg worksite on June 20. Then, sixty hemlock logs, ranging 15 to 30 feet in length, were unloaded the next day — ready for use on June 24.

“We will be building a 200-foot-long modified mudsill with cribbing, the longest ever constructed on Spring Creek, as well as five multi-log vane deflectors,” Vierick commented. “Both types of habitat devices are designed to prevent stream bank erosion and provide habitat for trout. The mudsill creates an artificial undercut bank and provides trout cover.”

Sittler outlined the project’s purpose. “This project is designed to lessen soil erosion. Erosion puts silt into streams - covering up the clean spawning gravel that trout need to reproduce. Sediment also fills in the spaces between stream-bottom rocks — taking away the places were aquatic insects live. Stream banks need deeply-rooted trees and shrubs to hold the soil in place.”

The modified mudsill will begin on the right side of the stream just above the Commercial Street bridge and extend upstream for 200 feet. The five multi-log vane deflectors will be built about one third of a mile upstream from the bridge.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission designed the corrective measures and will direct the construction. Fran Camaroto Excavating, of Williamsburg, was hired to supply the equipment and manpower to dig log trenches, move logs, place stone and re-contour the site.

“We are happy to be working again with Camaroto Excavating, as well as Tyler Neimond from the PFBC,” Vierck said. “We know what we are getting here. Both are easy to work with and I’m sure that the job will be done well.”

According to Vierck, this project is funded largely through a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant of $69,800. Some of this grant will also be used to support two projects elsewhere on Spring Creek next year. A number of other organizations, agencies and companies are also involved with the project.

“The major funding is from the grant, with our TU chapter supplying labor,” Vierck noted. “The Fish and Boat Commission provides their expertise, Glenn O. Hawbaker gave us a discount on the limestone and West Penn Power made a donation and has been very cooperative in allowing the work to take place on their property.

“The Little Juniata River Association donated some logs, and we will be working with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for the riparian planting of trees and shrubs at the site this fall,” Vierck said.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will monitor the grant’s implementation.

“It is always great to work with the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited,” commented Kristen Saacke Blunk, field liaison for National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund. “TU, along with a few other local organizations, such as the Little Juniata River Association and the Spring Creek Watershed Association, always seem to get the job done. TU also does such a great job of introducing kids to stream ecology.”

Come out to watch the stream restoration and enjoy the fun. Stream habitat work will begin just above the Commercial Street bridge in Milesburg at 8:30 a.m., on June 24. The family-oriented Buffer Buddies program will be held near the bridge at the Milesburg Community Park starting at 10 a.m., and runs through 1 p.m., on June 24 and 25.