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Water Quality Work Group Has Crowded Agenda

February 15th, 2017

Japanese knotweed has been taking over streambanks across Potter County. Local groups are fighting back.

Potter County’s Water Quality Work Group held its first meeting of the new year this week with a crowded agenda. One priority is the ongoing attack against invasive species which continue to flourish along many of the county’s cherished waterways, choking out native vegetation and destroying habitat. Upper Allegheny Watershed Assn. volunteers are gearing up for round two of an aggressive battle plan against Japanese knotweed along Mill Creek, an Allegheny tributary. UAWA spokesman Frank Weeks said chemical treatment with herbicides and cutting are planned, as part of a Coldwater Heritage Partnership Grant, which is a collaborative of Pa. Fish & Boat Commission, the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, and  Trout Unlimited.

Meanwhile, the Genesee Headwaters Watershed Association will be applying herbicides to kill Japanese knotweed patches that have been rapidly growing near the Genesee Community Park and other sections in that district. GHWA spokesman Darrel Davis reported that Nikki Ryan, invasive plant project coordinator from the Bucktail Watershed Assn. in Cameron County, has been assisting the Genesee group.

Another invader is also bearing in on Potter County. Jared Dickerson, watershed technician with the Potter County Conservation District, informed work group members that the hemlock woolly adelgid is working its way upstream in the Pine Creek Valley and will eventually reach the upper branches in Potter County. Hemlock trees provide important environmental benefits — from shading of waterways to wildlife habitat — but they are no match for the insect once it gains a foothold, Dickerson said. He added that strategic plantings of hemlock seedlings are starting in some sections of the Pine Creek Valley to establish a new generation for future decades.

Jason Childs, manager of the Potter County Conservation District, summarized more than a half-dozen ongoing projects geared toward protecting water quality and enhancing public education. Among them are improvements being made to Ludington Run, a Genesee River tributary, to improve fish habitat; assistance to farms, including streamside fencing, mostly in the Cowanesque River headwaters where Chesapeake Bay protection regulations are being implemented; numerous streambank stabilization projects across the county; culvert replacement to improve fish migration in Gravel Lick Run; and others.

Triple Divide Watershed Coalition chair Charlie Tuttle reported that a contractor will soon be chosen to install 24/7 water quality monitors on many of the 16 springs, wells and surface water sources feeding 10 public water systems in Potter County.

Commissioner Doug Morley announced that county officials are beginning compilation of a new comprehensive plan, as required by Pa. Act 247, and will be seeking input from the Water Quality Work Group.

Potter County Planning Director Will Hunt reported on the plan for a detailed feasibility study to determine the future of the dam on the West Branch of Pine Creek in Galeton Borough and related issues.

Members heard that multiple organizations are working on plans to build large woody debris structures on Kettle Creek to improve trout habitat.

Childs briefed the group on proposals before the state legislature to impose a per-gallon fee on withdrawals from public water sources to establish a dedicated funding source for water protection activities in Pennsylvania.

Members also expressed their appreciation to Jim Clark of McKean County for his involvement with the work group and other organizations. Clark is retiring this month after many years of service as an educator and water specialist with Penn State Extension.

Attendees were Frank Weeks, Will Hunt, Earl Brown, Jason Childs, Charlie Tuttle, Jared Dickerson, Darrell Davis, Pete Ryan, John McLaughlin and Commissioners Doug Morley and Paul Heimel.

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