Children squealed and splashed in the Boiling Springs Pool on a hot June day last week.
Just a few fly-casts away, a group of excavators, anglers and planners couldn’t wait to dive into their work at a section of the Yellow Breeches Creek.
The conservationists-sportsmen of the Cumberland Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited are at it again.
In partnership with others who care about improving water quality and stream habitat for finned critters and two-legged creatures, CVTU’s next project produces positive effects of cold water conservation techniques that extend beyond improving fly fishing for trout in the Yellow Breeches.
“We’re improving the stream wherever we have the chance to improve it,” said Jeb Betar of CVTU. “Wild trout are all through this section. Our point is, stabilize these banks, cut down on the amount of sediment flowing downstream, and improve the fishing for everybody. Demonstrate to everybody about cold water conservation.”
The 10-day, first phase of the stream restoration project at the old dam site above the Wittlinger Nature Preserve in South Middleton Township will get underway the first full week of August. It is CVTU’s third project on the Breeches’ open water.
Habitat for wild brown trout will be improved, and the amount of harmful sediment that runs into the stream at the former impoundment will be reduced. The dam was removed about 10 years ago.
As with most stream projects of this ilk, teamwork is essential, and CVTU has assembled a solid coalition for funding, planning, sweat and heavy lifting.
Gleim Environmental Group will do the excavation, and a host of CVTU volunteers will help install four habitat structures in the first phase. Stephanie Rider is Gleim’s team leader for the heavy equipment crew.
“It’s an environmental commitment,” John Gleim says of the excavation work. “Our mission statement involves protecting the environment while we do our work.”
“We’ve partnered with TU many times and they bring volunteers out, and as owners, they allow us to have volunteers working right alongside us,” Rider adds. “So it is important to us as a community project.”
Tyler Neimond, Stream Habitat Section chief of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Division of Habitat Management, designed the stream improvement project and will provide oversight during construction.
South Middleton Township owns the impoundment area and endorsed the project.
“We’re excited whenever folks can see something special in the community and take it upon themselves to enhance it,” South Middleton Township Manager Cory Adams said. “South Middleton is a special community with a lot of natural resources and a beautiful landscape. This just speaks perfectly into what’s going on in the community.”
The $27,000 for the first phase comes from a variety of sources. The second, downstream phase will flow when opportunity and more funding come together.
The national Embrace-A-Stream program provided a $7,000 grant to CVTU. Embrace-A-Stream is administered by Trout Unlimited and provides funds to local chapters and councils for coldwater fisheries conservation. Russ Meyer, who chairs the Embrace-A-Stream grants committee, said the Wittlinger proposal simply “stood out in our committee.”
The Coldwater Heritage Partnership added $8,000. The partnership is a collaborative effort between the fish and boat commission, state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited.
PennDOT and the fish and boat commission will provide $4,000 and $3,000, respectively, for materials.
PennDOT is fulfilling its obligations to mitigate impacts associated with the Locust Point Road bridge replacement project over the Yellow Breeches.
CVTU will pick up the balance of the money needed.
The instream structures will stabilize the creek’s banks and reduce by an estimated 2.6 tons annually the amount of eroded sediment that enters the stream. That makes life better downstream to the Susquehanna River and beyond.
Log-frame stone deflectors, cross stream structures and single arm vanes with a J hook are the three types of structures going into the straight, uniform section of stream.
Deflectors will physically narrow the stream in low-flow conditions to create a deeper fallway in the middle of the channel and provide feeding and resting currents for trout.
Cross stream structures set grade control so the stream doesn’t downcut more than it already has and creates a scour pool on the downside, which would be another great area for the fish to hold.
The single-arm vane with a J hook off the end is meant to centralize the flows and create a scour pocket on the downstream side.
Sediment reduction is a key outcome. “Our stone deflectors will deposit materials on the downstream side of them and meant to take the pressure off of the toe of the slope and provide streambank stabilization,” Tyler Neimond says. “There was a lot of sediment brought in here over the years. Once the dam was taken out, the stream is back to a free-flowing condition. Now we are going to be able to protect the banks with some of these structures.”
The local Trout Unlimited crew sees the Breeches project at Wittlinger Nature Preserve as an important opportunity to support a naturally reproducing brown trout population, provide better cover for other aquatic life found in the stream, and encourage the growth of stream-side fauna and riparian borders that contribute to a healthy overall stream environment.
CVTU has a rich history of doing just that. This project builds upon the chapter’s shining legacy that boasts major restorative projects on the LeTort Spring Creek, Yellow Breeches Creek, Conococheague Creek and Big Spring Creek.
“We’re trying to live up to the standards set by our predecessors,” CVTU Stream Improvement Chairperson Don Albright said.
Two phases of work on Big Spring Creek in Newville enhanced fish habitat, riparian plantings and streambank stabilization to a value of $775,000.
CVTU has removed two low-head dams on the Breeches and stabilized streambanks on the Farner and Cramer properties along the creek.
They have been tireless in the preservation of LeTort Spring Run, and was a partner in improving 2,200 feet of the Conocoehague Creek in Michaux State Forest.
As for the Wittlinger project, more volunteer help is welcome. Get in touch with Don Albright by email at email@example.com.
Restoring that section of stream is a quality of life effort.
Trout in Wittlinger waters and those who pursue them are better off because CVTU and partners, like the children at the swimming pool, are going to jump in with both feet.