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Kiski River backers seek votes for $10,000 state grant

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 1:22 a.m.
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Canada geese float with the current on the Kiski River near the Leonard Miller Bridge in Apollo. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
The Kiski River flows under a railroad bridge near Apollo. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch

Kiski River improvements could gain a $10,000 state grant if enough people take part in online voting before Jan. 18.

For the second time in two years, the Kiski is in the running for the state's River of the Year designation.

In 2000, the Kiski and the Conemaugh rivers were named River of the Year.

Last year the Kiski was one of three finalists, but it lost to voting for Stony Creek River.

Kiski River backers don't want that to happen again.

This year, Kiski River supporters are vying against people pushing for the much larger Monongahela, Schuylkill and Lackawanna rivers and several others.

The Kiski was in third place, with about 12 percent of the vote, on Jan. 2. But that slid way back early this week to about 9 percent of the votes, compared with 32 percent for the Schuylkill, 28 percent for the Monongahela and 21 percent for the Lackawanna.

“The Kiski is beautiful,” said StrongLand Chamber of Commerce President Allan Walzak. “It's 10 miles long. And it's come back from a tremendous amount of pollution.

“We need people to vote.”

The Kiski meanders from Saltsburg, at the confluence of the Conemaugh River and Loyalhanna Creek.

It flows about 10 miles past Avonmore, Apollo, North Apollo, Parks and Leechburg on its way to the Allegheny River near Freeport.

Along the way, StrongLand has installed public-use boat ramps, river access and parking at Saltsburg, Salina, Roaring Run, Avonmore, North Apollo and Hyde Park.

That work has paid off by attracting at least three river-based businesses, hundreds of kayakers to the annual River Sojourn tour and an undetermined number of visitors who buy gas and eat at area restaurants, according to Walzak.StrongLand wants to use the $10,000 to acquire land for more public-use sites and to make it more attractive to tourists.

The river was slowly cleaned up by addition of a municipal wastewater treatment plant added in the 1970s and numerous projects to reduce acid mine drainage, said Kiski Valley Watershed Association President Bob Kossak. Water quality steadily improved from 20 years ago, but even 10 years ago orange rocks — indicative of acid mine drainage — could still be seen on the bottom of the river.

“It hasn't been like that for quite a while,” Walzak said.

Kossak said the river quality supports trout, walleye, sager and bass.The Kiski Valley Watershed Association stocks the Kiski with trout at least three times a year.

The River of the Year program was established in 1983 by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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