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Sinnemahoning Portage Creek, Cameron and McKean Counties

2006/10/2 10:08
From Greensburg, Westmoreland Co.
Posts: 279
I HiJacked this from another forum (FFP). Not sure of source, may be PA Outdoor News. Interesting article.

Irony: Fish kill may benefit northern tier
By Jeff Mulhollem
Thursday, December 6, 2007 12:15 PM CST
Pleasant Gap, Pa. - Time heals all wounds, said Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission President Bill Sabatose, referring to recovery from the summer 2006 lye spill that wiped out two high-quality streams in Cameron and McKean counties.
What he didn't say is that a trainload of money doesn't hurt either.

And now - thanks to the forced largess of Norfolk Southern - not only will Sinnemahoning Portage Creek and the Driftwood Branch of the Sinnemahoning eventually return to being productive fisheries, but the entire region will benefit through increased habitat-improvement and acid-mine-drainage-abatement efforts.

But ironically, the railroad's money won't speed up the return of wild trout to the Portage Creek and wild smallmouth bass to the Driftwood Branch. That process, according to experts at the Fish & Boat Commission, will take the time that Sabatose mentioned.

“While some initial recovery has begun, it will take more time and a considerable effort for the waters, fish populations and aquatic organisms to fully recover,” Sabatose said.

The commission considered trying to speed up the natural healing process on the streams, but opted to let them recover on their own, allowing wild trout from the tributaries to repopulate the upper portion of Portage Creek.

“We did carefully consider transplanting wild trout and we had an inquiry from Norfolk Southern about stocking domestic trout,” said Mark Hartle, a biologist with the commission's division of environmental services who headed up a study on the streams damaged by the lye spill. “But based on our experience with the recovery of another central Pennsylvania stream that was devastated by a chemical spill a few years ago, we decided to let nature run its course.”

The other stream Hartle cited was Tea Creek, where the wild trout population was wiped out by a chemical spill in August 1997. “Now, Tea Creek is a more fertile limestone-influenced stream, and the fish kill there didn't occur over so long a distance, but it was a similar situation,” he said.

“After one year we saw some recovery of the trout population, after two years we saw significant natural production, and by the third year it was clear that the stream was well on it's way to regaining it's old prominence as a wild trout fishery.”

The wild trout in the tributaries to Portage Creek and the Driftwood Branch are uniquely suited to that drainage, having evolved there. And it's not just the trout that would have to transplanted, Hartle noted. The aquatic insects, sculpins and the rest of the food chain would have to be reintroduced as well.

“Better to just let the streams recover on their own,” he said. “We would never be able to replace like for like. And given our experience with Tea Creek, we are confident the streams will come back.”

Some of the food chain in the streams did survive and is thriving, according to Jim Zoschg of Emporium, a watershed specialist for the Cameron County Conservation District who knows the waters well.

“The one thing I saw this spring was that the hatches were just phenomenal - the numbers of insects were unbelievable,” he said. “People have speculated that there were no fish to eat the bugs - that might have accounted for the fantastic hatches.”

The predictions of economic calamity resulting from the spill and resulting fish kill now seem exaggerated, Zoschg believes.

“Because trout stocking took place in the Driftwood Branch and the lower end of the Portage Creek this spring like it has every year, economically the fish kill was not a big blow to area communities,” he explained.

“It is just a blessing that the chemical flushed its way through and didn't have any lasting impact on the food chain.

“The smallmouths were mostly gone from the Driftwood Branch, but that didn't seem to cause a large economic impact. And there are some bass left in the stream - people caught a few last summer.”

It will take years to replace the biggest wild trout and bass from the Portage Creek and Driftwood Branch, Zoschg knows. “To me, short term, it was a bad thing, but long term it will be a good thing because the money from the settlement will pay for acid-mine-drainage-abatement in this watershed and others in the region.

“People up here are pretty happy with the settlement, it was more than we could have hoped for,” Zoschg added. “The thing is, the money is being dedicated to the area. I think it is kind of exciting.”

Sabatose stressed that the payments from Norfolk Southern will benefit the northern tier. “As a result of the settlement, the monies will be invested into the region's natural resources to help continue the healing process,” he said.

Prior to funding projects in the watershed affected by the derailment, Sabatose promised, the Fish & Boat Commission will convene a stakeholder group to seek input regarding the best ways to mitigate impacts stemming from the sodium hydroxide spill. Zoschg expects to be part of that group.

Projects to be considered will include acid-mine-drainage abatement; habitat protection, enhancement and restoration; the acquisition of properties for public fishing and access and improvements to existing access areas.

Posted on: 2008/1/20 7:09
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Only one constant in the universe, all men are equal in the eyes of the fish.
-GulfGreyhound paraphrasing Herbert Hoover

Re: Sinnemahoning Portage Creek, Cameron and McKean Counties

2006/9/13 10:18
From LV
Posts: 631
It's from the Outdorr News. I look forward to being able to contribute to helping the stream recover.

Posted on: 2008/1/21 18:45
George Orwell warned, "The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it."

Re: Sinnemahoning Portage Creek, Cameron and McKean Counties

2006/9/14 11:09
From schuylkill county, pa
Posts: 0
I found this on the Fish & Boat Comm. web site. ... honing/norfolk_report.pdf

Posted on: 2008/2/3 23:23

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