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State announces watershed project grants

Joe Napsha
| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The state said Wednesday it has awarded $2.7 million in grants for 14 projects in Fayette and Westmoreland counties that are aimed at protecting watersheds, reducing stormwater runoff and removing acid mine drainage that is polluting streams.

Conservation groups and watershed associations in Westmoreland County have been allocated $1.66 million for nine projects involving stream restoration efforts along Jacobs, Loyalhanna and Sewickley creeks and Monastery Run, plus stormwater drainage initiatives.

In Fayette County, the state earmarked $1.05 million for five projects to improve Indian Creek, Glade Run, Dunbar Creek and Downers Run.

The money allocated to local groups is part of the state's more than $20.6 million investment into the environmental projects through its Growing Greener Program, as well as the Acid Mine Drainage Set Aside Program and funds from a surface mine conservation program.

Beverly Braverman, executive director of the Mountain Watershed Association of Melcroft, which focuses its efforts on improving the watershed of Indian Creek, a tributary of the Youghiogheny River, said it is important for the state to fund the environmental cleanup efforts.

“There are over 5,000 miles of degraded streams in the state. A lot of these streams are used for public water supplies, in addition to fishing and recreational uses. These (polluted) water discharges have a huge negative impact” on the environment and the economy, Braverman said.

The Mountain Watershed Association was allocated $305,819 to improve the Anna and Steve Gdosky Indian Creek Restoration Project, which treats acid mine drainage from the former Kalp mine. Repairs are needed on 10-acre treatment system that allows the iron floating in polluted water to fall to the bottom of the settling ponds, before flowing into Indian Creek.

In Westmoreland County, the Loyalhanna Creek Watershed Association will receive $190,750 to continue its stream bank restoration and stabilization project for about two-thirds of a mile along Loyalhanna Creek, in the area near the Two Mile Run Bridge in Ligonier Township, said Joshua C. Penatzer, project director for the watershed association.

The association also will receive a $101,156 grant to conduct a feasibility study to determine how to treat acid mine drainage flowing into Crabtree Creek in the area behind the Crabtree Fire Hall, Penatzer said. The drainage from an underground mine is pouring into the creek at a rate of “thousands of gallons a minute,” polluting the creek with iron that oxidizes with the air and turns the water orange, he said.

The Westmoreland Conservation District in Hempfield will receive about $370,000 for a stormwater and soil conservation project on farmland in the Beaver Run area, as well as installing stormwater drainage for parking lots in the Delmont area and to refurbish stormwater basins to make them work more efficiently, said James Pillsbury, the conservation district's hydraulic engineer.

The Sewickley Creek Watershed Association will receive $119,400 to remove sludge from acid mine draining settling ponds in the Brinkerton area, said Thomas Keller, executive director of the association.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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