In the weeks leading up to the Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council will feature each of this year’s five awardees, along with a local group receiving special recognition. The Connoquenessing Watershed Alliance, Crawford County Riparian Restoration Program, Green Building Alliance, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, Edward Schroth will be honored as this year’s award recipients, while the Garden Club of Allegheny County will be presented with special recognition at the May 26 ceremony at Pittsburgh’s Westin Hotel and Convention Center. The Connoquenessing Watershed Alliance begins our feature series of this year’s well-deserving honorees.
Connoquenessing Watershed Alliance
The Connoquenessing Watershed Alliance replanted a riparian buffer along seven miles of sewer line crossings following the completion of a major habitat improvement project in Thorn Creek. The original intent of the project originated from citizens concerns over the effect of the construction of the new sewer line along and through the Thorn Creek floodplain.
At each stream crossing, 30 native tree and shrub seedlings were planted on both sides of the stream bank, with a total of over 1,500 seedlings planted. Four in-stream devices were constructed to create an immediate fish habitat. More than 30 in-stream habitat devices have been installed, stabilizing over 5,000 feet of stream bank and leveraging over $300,000 in watershed improvements through grants, donations, and partnerships.
The property owner at the project site has signed an agreement with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to keep this property open for public fishing, and increased angler usage has been documented due to the increased fishing opportunities available with the improved habitats. Besides stocked trout, fishery surveys at the project site have shown thriving populations of 16 different native fishes, including rock bass, white suckers, and numerous other forage fish species.
Led by project leader David Andrews, a middle level educator in the Butler Area School District, this area has turned into a tremendous environmental education resource for the local community. Students and teachers from local schools, local municipal business leaders and other concerned citizens have been given tours of the site to learn first-hand how the improvements are benefitting the stream and preview future plans for the site.
Butler Junior High School initiated a “Water Day” environmental education field experience at the site, involving over 40 students in various watershed activities. Students released fingerling brook trout in the stream from the Trout in the Classroom project, assisted the Fish and Boat Commission with an electrofishing survey of the creek, completed aquatic macro invertebrate surveys with the Butler County Conservation District, and planted trees and shrubs from the Pennsylvania Game Commission to help repair the riparian buffer damaged during construction activities.
This project has brought together many state and local partners, including government agencies, local municipalities, international corporations, concerned community members, local businesses, and a school district. Thus far, close to 20 different groups or individuals have been active participants in the project.