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$1.75M in grants will aid conservation

Rich Cholodofsky
| Friday, May 4, 2012, 5:33 a.m.

Land conservation efforts received a major boost on Thursday as Westmoreland County commissioners awarded $1.75 million in grants to 21 projects.

Commissioners set aside $363,000 for the creation of a trust fund designed to preserve open spaces in developed areas.

Ted Kopas, aide to Commissioner Tom Balya, said the trust was the centerpiece of allocations.

"We want to preserve tracts of land threatened by development. The trust would buy up open space in already developed areas, like where there is a couple of acres of green space in between a downtown and a strip mall," Kopas said.

Initial plans call for the county to set up a private, nonprofit board to operate the trust.

The $363,000 Growing Greener grant is seed money for that trust. Greg Phillips, district manager and chief operating officer of the Westmoreland Conservation District, said the soon-to-be formed nonprofit would have to raise about $130,000 in matching funds.

"There's a lot of good work already being done and this will add to it. We should be able to take this money and show results," Phillips said.

The money handed out yesterday is pending state approval. County commissioners select which projects receive grants including funding for other Growing Greener grants. .

Other Growing Greener grants have been awarded on a competitive basis against projects throughout the state.

Last year, Pennsylvania voters approved the authorization of a $625 million bond issue to pay for conservation projects such as cleaning up rivers and streams, reclaiming abandoned coal mines, preserving natural areas and open space, and improving state parks and local recreational facilities.

"The money just helps us get to all those goals, to get open space preserved, farmland preserved, trails built and water quality improved," Phillips said.

The list of grants announced yesterday were:

• Allegheny Township, $3,000 to clean up an illegal dump and restore stream habitat in a ravine along Indian Hill Road.

• Countywide, $60,000 to construct a portion of the Coal and Coke Trail from Mt. Pleasant to Scottdale; engineering for the Five Star Trail extension to Scottdale; and associated costs for the development of the Westmoreland Heritage Trail from Delmont to Saltsburg.

• Countywide, $100,000 to preserve in perpetuity a number of additional acres of farmland in several areas of the county, using agricultural conservation easements to permanently protect it from development and limit its use to agriculture.

• Countywide, $363,000 to establish a land trust to protect ecologically significant areas, open space, sustainable wood lots, mine drainage treatment sites and to expand existing protected areas described in the county's comprehensive plan.

• Countywide, $110,000 to install the best agricultural management practices at six farms to prevent water pollution.

• Derry Township, $50,000 to improve water quality by keeping water from entering an abandoned underground coal mine and to restore an adjacent stream channel.

• Donegal Township, $50,000 to complete a project to minimize sedimentation to the Upper Four Mile Run watershed and control excess stormwater runoff.

• Greensburg, $50,000 to incorporate trees, plants and associated best-management practices in new city parking lots to improve aesthetics and reduce stormwater runoff.

• Hempfield Township, $150,000 to complete funding for the acquisition of a 49-acre tract adjacent to Twin Lakes Park to act as a buffer between homes and a proposed regional skate park and to construct the skate park.

• Hempfield Township, $200,000 to install innovative stormwater management controls and energy conservation practices for the redevelopment of the GreenForge Building along Donohoe Road.

• Irwin and North Huntingdon, $80,000 to develop portions of a pedestrian trail connecting downtown Irwin to Tinkers Run Park and the Norwin Public Library.

• Latrobe, $75,000 to add green features and extend the existing Creekside Park Trail in conjunction with the redevelopment of a former industrial site.

• Ligonier Township, $50,000 to improve aquatic habitat, reduce stream-bank erosion and provide additional flood plain area along Mill Creek and Hanna's Run.

• Monessen, $50,000 to construct a walking trail, with shade trees and benches, along the Monongahela River.

• Mt. Pleasant Township, $150,000 to install stormwater controls and water-quality improvements at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds.

• Mt. Pleasant Township, $12,000 to provide stream-bank stabilization to approximately 400 feet of Jacob's Creek, a trout-stocked fishery, adjacent to Route 31.

• New Kensington, $50,000 to design an innovative stream channel to reduce flooding and erosion along Little Puckety Creek near Valley High School in New Kensington.

• New Kensington, $60,000 to develop a riverfront walk area with trees, shrubs, lights, observation areas and public access to the Allegheny River.

• Salem Township, $12,000 to facilitate development of a biodigester to accept organic waste to produce energy products in conjunction with a new sewage treatment plant and abandoned mine-discharge treatment system.

• Vandergrift, $75,000 to install "green" parking surfaces to manage stormwater in an historic gateway area to the borough.

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