The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently announced it will invest roughly $13 million in 73 watershed protection projects across the state, including more than $50,000 in three Cumberland County projects.

The three projects are a Cumberland County Conservation District (CCCD) project to map invasive plant species in the Yellow Breeches and Conodoguinet watersheds, a Cumberland Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited (CVTU) project to remove invasive plant species along the Yellow Breeches Creek and a Messiah College project to create a riparian buffer along a tributary of the Yellow Breeches Creek.

The funding for the 73 projects across the state will come from the Growing Greener program, Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Grant and federal Nonpoint Source Management Program.

Invasive plants

Both CCCD and CVTU were given money for projects related to invasive plant species, whose seeds are spread easily by streams and creeks and cause a number of environmental problems.

Japanese knotweed, which is the target of CVTU's project, for example pushes native plants out and leads to bank erosion, according to CVTU Stream Access and Conservation Committee Chairman Gene Giza.

"Japanese knotweed grows in clusters that shade out native plants and (eliminates) the stabilization that would normally occur with a more appropriate cover of natural vegetation," he said. "The Japanese knotweed's bamboo-like stalks encourage an exposed, unprotected riparian soil surface that, as a result, is more suitable to erosion ... resulting in increased nutrient laden sediment delivered into the stream."

"Mainly, they would out compete some of the native vegetation and if things weren't controlled it could eventually be the only thing growing there," CCCD Watershed Specialist Vince Mccollum said of all invasive plant species.

The resistance

The CCCD project, which will receive $10,294 from DEP, is not one of direct action against invasive plant species, but will rather help conservation groups like CVTU better fight them back in the future.

"We're going to try to inventory invasive species that are present in the county and then create a GIS layer or a geodatabase ... that can be used as a tool for eradicating those species," Mccollum said.

Without getting into the technical explanations of exactly what GIS layers and geodatabases are, the project boils down to mapping where invasive plant species are in the Yellow Breeches and Conodoguinet watersheds so conservation groups can track and remove them.

"Those two streams basically drain the entire county, so this project is essentially going to be county-wide," Mccollum added.

CVTU meanwhile will receive funding in the amount of $11,200 for a project to eradicate Japanese knotweed from three locations along the Yellow Breeches Creek.

"The project will involve hiring a contractor to spray the Japanese knotweed at three locations and hiring a landscape contractor to install native plants in the treated areas," Giza said.

All three locations are in the Boiling Springs area and make up three acres of creek bank.

"Unlike other regions of Pennsylvania, where knotweed is beyond control, removal of the invasive plant from the Yellow Breeches watershed can still be accomplished because it's still in its infancy stage," Giza added. "This project will contribute to water quality improvements in the Yellow Breeches Creek and, of course, to the Chesapeake Bay."

Buffering at Messiah

Messiah College, which plans to invest more than just the 15 percent match required for its funding, will receive $35,800 to plant a riparian buffer along 500 feet of a campus stream that feeds the Yellow Breeches Creek, according to Professor of Biology and Environmental Science David Foster.

Riparian buffers are buffers of vegetation planted along waterways to protect water quality for humans and wildlife by providing shade to keep water cool, preventing erosion and reducing the amount of pollutants that are carried into the waterway by rain. The riparian buffer at Messiah would serve an additional purpose however.

"We can continue to use it for educational proposes for years to come," Foster said.

Both college students and youth involved in programs on campus will benefit from the buffer, both as a living example of a riparian buffer and a way to get them excited about conservation, according to Foster.

"We really just believe institutionally, we have a commitment to take care of the creation," he added.

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