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Conservation district moves forward on water quality projects

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2002

LEMONT FURNACE - The Fayette County Conservation District says construction related to its Middle Youghiogheny non-point source pollution restoration project is due to begin soon. Sampling for its Browns Run Watershed assessment project continues.

the Middle Youghiogheny non-point source pollution restoration project is being funded by a $247,500 Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) "Growing Greener" grant that the district received in August 2001, according to district manager Doug Petro.

"Non-point source pollution" refers to pollution from run off that carries sediment and nutrients from farm land heavily used by animals, to streams and ultimately, rivers.

The project involves implementing "best management practices," at farms throughout the middle Youghiogheny region to reduce sediment and nutrient pollution in the lower Yough region from Connellsville to the state line.

The project began last September when the district invited farmers who were interested in reducing non-point source pollution from their land to participate in the program.

The voluntary program drew 22 applications, and the district selected 12 for the program, based on pollution or potential pollution from the farms.

The program is estimated to enhance and protect five acres of surface water.

Grazing management will be applied to 298 acres, where pastures are sectioned and animals are rotated among the sections, giving vegetation a chance to recover and reducing problems with run off, and 57 acres of wooded areas will be enhanced by eliminating animals from being pastured there and two and a half acres of critical run off area will be reseeded and revegetated.

Petro said most of the project's construction projects involve stream bank and pond fencing with an estimated 12,672 feet of bank and pond fencing due to be installed.

One manure storage facility will be constructed for a large dairy farm, able to store 12,600 pounds of manure per day during the winter and the growing season when it cannot be spread on the fields.

The farmers participating in the program will arrange for construction on their properties, and the district will reimburse them from the $196,000 of the funds earmarked for construction.

Materials for the river bank fencing project were delivered this week, with construction to soon, weather permitting. Most construction projects are expected to be completed from April to November 2003.

Petro said the program will have the most impact on surface water immediately downstream from the farms, which may improve some fish habitats.

He believes with the completion of a similar project in the Redstone Creek Watershed and a new Growing Greener grant awarded to the district in August for a non point source pollution restoration project in the Georges Creek Watershed, farms in over two-thirds of the county would have had the opportunity to apply BMPs.

"It's a start," said Petro.

The conservation district is also continuing to sample points in the Browns Run Watershed

The district received a $40,541 Growing Greener grant to assess Browns Run that begins with two branches that originate near Highhouse and Amend that merge near Lechrone and continue to the Youghiogheny River near Ronco.

Fayette County Conservation District Watershed Coordinator Heather Fowler said Browns Run Watershed is the first comprehensive study of the watershed. The land use in the watershed is varied, with rural, urban, industrial, mining sites.

The district will test water from 18 sites in the watershed during 13 months.

Fowler says the water is tested for pollutants related to acid mine discharge and nutrients, sediment, and bacteria associated with animal waste and sewage.

The watershed will be tested twice for macroinvertebrates, or insect life, that are used as an indicator of water quality.

The results of water tests, along with watershed history, geography, geology, and a visual habitat evaluation will be compiled into a restoration/protection plan used to identify options for cleaning up problem areas or sites that require further study.

"We're just taking the first step to find out what can be done," says Fowler.

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