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Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek

2011/6/12 20:15
From Newville, PA
Posts: 124
Last night West Pennsboro Towship granted conditional approval to a modified plan for a chicken farm on property located along Big Spring Creek. Modified plan calls for 31,000 SF poultry barn located 1,645 feet from the creek. Previous plan called for facility located within 200 feet of creek. Not an expert on these matters, but township approval is conditional upon three conditions:
1. Proof of complete MPDS permit from DEP;
2. Basic modifications to the plan; and
3. Another meeting to see if plan modification were completed to township satisfaction.

Complete story at ... eb951069ad72757502287.txt

Posted on: 2011/11/9 19:03

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek
2006/9/9 17:32
From Gettysburg
Posts: 439
Thanks for the heads-up. The chicken farm drama continues. I do think the current proposal is a much better one than the previous plan that was rejected earlier this year.

Posted on: 2011/11/9 19:19

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek

2011/6/12 20:15
From Newville, PA
Posts: 124
Agree. While I do not wish to begrudge a landowner from making a living on his land, we all have a stake in ensuring the recent gains in the quality of this fishery are not lost.

Posted on: 2011/11/9 19:34
“If we become conceited through great success, some day the trout will take us down a peg. - Theodore Gordon

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek

2009/4/3 15:46
From Carlisle, Pa
Posts: 0
I agree and i want you to know CVTU has been to every meeting and has had a vocies on this. We have a few members putting a lot of time in behind the scenes on this we are very concerned also.
Justin P

Posted on: 2011/11/13 18:39

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek

2008/8/24 20:26
From Mount Joy, PA
Posts: 178
Saw this on FOX43 the other morning... ... ed-poultry-barns-20120306,0,6525692.story

Keep fightin' the good fight!

Posted on: 2012/3/8 15:25

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek

2008/6/28 15:57
Posts: 42
I would be very skeptical of this enterprise.

Large chicken farm operations have trashed rivers all over the place with their waste. The Shenandoah watershed and the Eastern shore of Maryland, to name just two locations.

And limestone is porous. That makes the watershed even more vulnerable. Nitrates and phosphates are hugely mobile, water-soluble compounds. And the arsenic that gets used in many brands of chicken feed isn't very friendly stuff, either.

You need more than anglers on the case in this one. Get as much expert advice as you can, from soil scientists, hydrologists, wildlife biologists, etc.

It isn't that the pollution problems haven't been studied. It's that the people in a position to do something about it don't want to heed the advice.

This is potentially a much bigger problem than putting a Home Depot on the LeTort. It isn't something that a few rain gardens can help to minimize.

I'm not an expert, myself. You need to consult with some of them. It would be nice to find a win-win on this. But that may not be possible.

NOTE: I just plugged the figure 31000 square ft. into an acres convertor...turns out that it's 3/4 of an acre.

That isn't a huge operation. But I'm still worried.

I wasn't able to read the link- I'll do a search on the story.

Posted on: 2012/3/12 21:13

Edited by barbless on 2012/3/12 21:29:28

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek

2008/6/28 15:57
Posts: 42
Okay, I did a little more research.

It turns out that the total area in the farm plans is around 8 1/2 acres. That's a lot bigger. And the farmer wants to eventually put up two barns, not one.

None of the print stories I've accessed so far mentioned anything about the number of chickens in the proposed farm. Sloppy reporting, or bad editing. Or worse editing.

I finally found the number in the captions attached to the image link below- 32,000.

32,000 is a lot of chickens.

The same link also mentioned that $350,000 was just spent on an extensive stream restoration project at Big Spring.

Under the circumstances, maybe the money would have been better spent in a fund to buy out the farmer.

Maybe it isn't too late to make him an offer, in fact.

I'm serious. The spring creeks of the Cumberland Valley are exactly the sort of places that groups like the Nature Conservancy negotiate to preserve and protect with easements, by negotiating with private landowners, using a combination of private donations and the Land and Water Conservation Fund: ... ter-conservation-fund.xml

If you click on the PA location of the interactive map in the link below, you'll read that the Land and Water Conservation Fund has spent over $300 million over the last four decades to preserve Pennsylvania wildlands. ... conservation-fund-map.xml

But as it happens, I'll tell you what I'm seeing: we're on the verge of losing Big Spring. All of us- but especially you Pennsylvanians.

I think many of you are victims of your own denial. On a lot of levels. Like letting yourselves get shined on by a bunch of reassuring words, with no way to hold people to account once the deal is done. Or by deluding yourselves into thinking that private property rights give people the right to pollute water.

Water isn't private property. It moves from the clouds to the ocean, and everywhere in between.

As for the people who value your priceless natural treasures enough to fight for them- you need to appeal outside of your own local power structure. Get the word out. Talk to people. Talk to Riverkeepers. Talk to American Rivers. Contact every fishing blog you can find on the 'Net.

Otherwise, the know-nothings will keep rolling over you. People like those with attitudes like the majority of those expressed in the comments of this news article: ... arm_proposed_outside.html

I read the comments in this forum. Where are your contributions to the comment section of that news story?

As matters stand now, I haven't pulled up a comment on this story from any fly fishing site or 'blog, except for this brief item that's just been posted in Fly Fisherman ... g-creek-and-logan-branch/

The author, a PA resident, sounds resigned to the situation. I think that's unfortunate. Some things you shouldn't let slide past you without a fight.

I note that public comments are being accepted by the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection for another week- the deadline is March 21, 2012.

I should have my letter done by tomorrow. And I'm going to send a few alerts out to some fishing blogs, beginning with Trout Underground. Including this bit here:

"written comment on the plans to build a chicken farm for 30,000 chickens at the headwaters of Pennsylvania's Big Spring may be sent to Valerie Marx, DEP South-central Regional Office, 909 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17110. The public comment period will close on March 21."

I'd like to find out that I'm getting worked up over nothing. But I'd rather get worked up over nothing than fall off in doing the due diligence on this issue.

Incredible. No sooner does $350,000 get spent to restore a stream habitat, than someone decides that it's the perfect place to park a barn for 30,000 chickens. And for those of you who constantly moan about the unaccountability of "the government", consider that the farmer apparently refuses to talk to the press, or to attend the public hearings on his own project. ... e1-883a-001871e3ce6c.html

Are you going to cop out on this one? Is your level of cognitive dissonance that high? Or are you going to fight?

I dunno, sometimes. Every time I think that PA might be a fantastic place to live- and it is where I trace half of my family roots, after all- I get the idea that what I most like about it is destined to get buried by apathy, neglect, pettiness and greed. People despising their birthrights, for a mess of pottage.

Trading a world-class spring creek for a factory farm..."it's either that or a truck depot", according to a comment in one of the article links. Great, poor-face. Thanks for the advance warning.

Maybe I'll check in again for a visit some time, after I relocate back to the scary liberal West Coast again.

Posted on: 2012/3/12 23:01

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek

2010/6/26 11:19
From Along the Lehigh Above the Gap
Posts: 132
Great post barbless, I am not a fan of BS, but agree it needs to be saved. Hopefully others will step up and not take our waters for granit.

Posted on: 2012/3/13 0:49
“My mom is being eaten by a dog and there’s nothing I can do!”

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek
2006/9/9 17:32
From Gettysburg
Posts: 439

barbless wrote:

As matters stand now, I haven't pulled up a comment on this story from any fly fishing site or 'blog....

Have you followed this story on PAFF? We've been talking about it.
This isn't a new story and has popped up with public meetings since the proposal emerged last year. We've discussed it at length on this forum and I posted the address to the good folks at DEP some time ago (although it doesn't hurt to post it again). Your post seems to imply that nobody is paying attention and the farm will be a fait-accompli. There is strenuous resistance to this proposal. Both Cumberland Valley TU and Big Spring Watershed Association are vocal opponents. To be sure, the region around BS is agricultural with a conservative, pro-farming constituency...but it's not a done deal.
Again, please contact DEP and voice your opinion. Consider supporting BSWA and CVTU.

Posted on: 2012/3/14 9:29

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek

2008/6/28 15:57
Posts: 42
Fish, I resoundingly applaud everyone who IS actually doing something about this. But it doesn't seem as if there's nearly enough of you yet.

I also think that you're under-estimating the number of allies that you can enlist in this fight.

I often hesitate to get involved in matters that get decided by local governments or State governments in places where I don't personally reside, or have some deep personal connection. But I make more exceptions in the case of environmental issues. Especially pollution of the air and water, which ultimately is not a local issue at all. Especially in the case of fresh water, which is ls than 1/200 of the water supply on the planet. The supply of fresh water held as groundwater in aquifers is much smaller than that. And it's by far the most difficult to purify, once it's polluted.

Furthermore, I think there's a strong argument to be made that Big Spring at Newville, PA is a world-class natural treasure. The limestone springs ecologies of the Cumberland Valley are all jewels, but Big Spring is like the crown jewel of them all, because it still hosts a wild native population of Eastern brook charr. It's also emblematic of the verdant beauty of the Eastern countryside. Western spring creeks may have a more spectacular backdrop. They're larger- often much larger, like the Missouri. But as a rule, they're comparatively austere. They don't run through shaded glades of hardwoods and moss.

There's one exception to that rule that I can think of, offhand: the Metolius River, in Oregon. The Metolius is a freestone spring creek, and one with such a ferocious flow that it generates Class IV rapids within 3-4 miles of its source. The Metolius doesn't run through high plains meadows or cottonwoods; it's located in a unique ecological niche, in the only grove of Ponderosa pines found for many miles around. It's unique in the world. And the private landowners there and government of the State of Oregon have put the entire upper half of it into public trust, preserving it for posterity. Even though Oregon is not a wealthy state.

(Ironically, trout are not particularly plentiful in the Metolius- and since the water stays at a constant 49 degrees, it isn't as rich with insect life and vegetation as limestone spring creeks. One of the major feeder tribs is more like a constant 44 degrees, literally too cold to host rainbow trout. It's the main spawning stream for the 10-15 lb. bull trout that enter the river from the reservoir that was built some miles downstream from the headwaters.)

I think that Big Springs/Falling Springs/Letort Spring Run are in the same class of natural wonder as the Metolius, in the ecological sense. And just as unique. And like the Metolius, they deserve something like a permanent cordon of protection. They're found in a completely different setting than rural Oregon, of course- and I'm not advocating that Cumberland county be declared a wilderness preserve. But the limestone streams of the region deserve much, much more protection than death by a thousand cuts from the continual stress of development.

Especially Big Spring.

The place certainly deserves better than the ignominy of having a poultry farm of 35,000 chickens- or even 10,000 chickens, or 3500 chickens- located only 350 yards from it's porous, marly banks and its limestone geology. Or a truck depot for 300 trucks- or even for 30 trucks.

How does this problem get solved, once and for all?

I'm not wedded to an ideology on this. I just want to do what works best. But as a citizen with a personal interest in responsible stewardship of a place as rare and fragile as Big Spring, I'm not interested in compromise, as far as the ultimate result that I'm after. Those spring creeks pay with every compromise. If that pattern continues, they're done for.

There are three basic ways to accomplish the goal of preserving the natural integrity of these streams:

1) The government uses its powers to regulate on issues of development, pollution, and environmental protection to permanently forbid private landowners from using their property in any way that risks degrading the priceless public resource of Big Spring, which is not only a natural wonder of rarity and beauty, but also the water supply for the residents of Newville.

2) Some person, group, organization, institution, or government department buys out all of the private landowners along the banks, and everywhere else in the watershed, and puts the land into permanent trust. Whether public or private. (In Oregon, the largest landowner in the Metolius region pretty much granted the land for preservation. But that family was in the fortunate position of being able to afford to do that.)

3) Permanent easements are negotiated with the unanimous consent of all of the landowners, to compensate them in return for pursuing ecologically friendly land use. Including doing things like refraining from fertilizing their lawns, leaving ample riparian barriers, planting more trees and less turf, no-till agriculture, and preserving all of the land from more development, either commercial or residential.

Those methods can all be used by themselves, or combined. I don't personally care exactly how it's accomplished.

In fact, I'd rather see, say, the Donny Beaver Consortium buy Newville and turn it into a private angling resort than witness it getting trashed by the runoff from a chicken farm or a truck depot.

I realize that the underlying issue in all of this is $$$- funding. And that tends to immediately get a lot of folks to throw up their hands in despair. Many of them immediately go into reactive mode- "there's a recession, the government is broke", etc. And turning their pockets out.


I refuse to see how it would be a prohibitive expense to preserve Big Spring. And I'm not talking about tax dollars. I'm talking about fly fisher dollars.

This isn't like buying Yellowstone Park. I can't believe that there isn't enough money out there to make a landowner an offer he can't refuse, to stand down from turning his place into a 9 acre chicken farm.

Option #1: There are some fabulously wealthy and/or well-connected fly fishermen out there. People like Yvon Chouinard. Perk Perkins. Paul Volcker. Norm Schwartzkopf (I'm almost sure I ran into him one windy day on Falling Springs a few years ago, fwiw). Movie actors and rock stars. Or multibillionaire Jon Huntsman, Sr., who could buy the city of Newville with pocket change. Who's to say one of them, or maybe a group of them, wouldn't be interested in providing the philanthropy to preserve Big Spring in perpetuity? Has anybody asked?

Option #2: Never mind the rich folks. It's plain and obvious that there are thousands of trout anglers out there who, while not billionaires or multimillionaires, still have enough disposable income to spend on expensive fishing tackle and vacations, year in and year out. Are people priorities really so skewed that they'd prefer to buy another $500 fly rod, rather than donating it to a land trust fund to purchase the Big Spring watershed?

Am I wrong in estimating that if every trout fishing fanatic on the Eastern seaboard chipped in the price of a new fly line to preserve Big Spring, enough money would be raised to- at minimum- ease the would-be Pennsboro chicken farmer into retirement?

I get the viewpoint that many people have, that these days the government can't afford to use taxpayer money to fund projects like preserving Big Spring. I don't agree with it, but I see where it's coming from.

But if that shouldn't be the job of the government, that leaves it to people like US. Private stakeholders with a particular vested interest in protecting the resource as a wildlands preserve.

And, to whom it may concern: if you're going to cop out on that, preferring to do something like adding another fly rod to your stash, I think you have a hole in your bucket.

I have enough fly rods, personally. I'd sell every one of them except one at a loss and give all of the money to preserve Big Spring- if I only knew for sure that enough other people felt the same way that enough funds would be raised to do the job.

Posted on: 2012/3/16 14:58

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek
2006/9/9 9:29
From Monessen, PA
Posts: 2880
barbless, I couldn't read the second treatise you typed, but the first was rather condescending. You are pointing fingers at others for being unconcerned as if you alone care about this stream. As fishidiot tersely pointed out, many folks have been following this and fighting it. I admire your passion, but I fear your approach here is going to be counter-productive. Those that can help will do so. Those that can't aren't going to be shamed into it, or at least I doubt that shame will motivate them. It may turn some off, though.

Posted on: 2012/3/24 10:43
"If you see the Buddha in the road, please slow down and see if she is OK." OK?

-- Me

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek

2008/6/28 15:57
Posts: 42
Yeah, you're right...I just went off. Discharging in the closest place handy, instead of finding targets worthy of my scorn. So I ended up ranting on a site full of the people who deserve it least. Some of the strongest allies out there.

And yes, how I do go on, sometimes.

To boil down my second message: I was putting out some thoughts on finding a way to permanently protect the entire Big Spring watershed against repeated assaults and insults. Including the notion that maybe a group effort could be made to just out and out buy the entire upper wellsprings and watershed, along the lines of a Nature Conservancy land trust thing. (Ebay has been good to me lately- I'd be in for four figures, as long as there's an organized effort for permanent protection by honest people who won't embezzle the money, who would return the escrow if it doesn't work out.)

by the way, any updates on the DEP decision?

Posted on: 2012/5/3 11:49

Re: Chicken Farm on Big Spring Creek

2009/4/1 21:52
From Johnstown, PA
Posts: 5
There are two different locations with multiple buildings on the upper Raystown Branch and it's like they popped up overnight. When i saw them i cringed. They are both on Rt 31 near New Baltimore.

Posted on: 2012/5/3 17:39

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