Fly fishing

How to help preserve the life of the Stonycreek River for the future

Donors took on a $ 1,000 challenge from the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy to develop the Oven Run Sites A, D, E and F Trust Fund, a financial resource that aims to preserve the Stonycreek River as a living waterway and healthy for the region.

Tim Messer, chairman of conservation, and Rick Bloom, member of the conservation board, presented a check for $ 1,000 on Wednesday to Len Lichvar, director of the Somerset Conservation District and Kecia Bal of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, which manages the trust fund.

On Wednesday, the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy presented a check for $ 1,000 to the Somerset Conservation District Oven Run Sites A, D, E and F trust fund in Greenhouse Park near Tire Hill.  Pictured, left to right: Rick Bloom, member of the Conservation Council;  Len Lichvar, director of the conservation district;  Kecia Bal from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies and Tim Messer, president of the conservancy.

The presentation took place in Greenhouse Park, near Tire Hill. The man-made whitewater park is located on a section of the Stonycreek River that has benefited over the past 25 years from improved water quality produced by the abandoned mine drainage from Oven Run, aka AMD, passive treatment sites in Shade Township.

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What is the Oven Run Trust Fund?

The Oven Run Sites A, D, E and F trust fund began late last year with a contribution of $ 25,000 from Somerset County Commissioners. Under the management of the Community Foundation – and with donations from the community as a whole – the trust fund is intended to provide a source of funding for the future costs of maintaining and rebuilding these four AMD treatment sites.

In April, the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy announced it would give $ 1,000 when the fund receives its first $ 1,000 in donations.

“We brought it to the board and all board members unanimously agreed,” Messer said. “We have $ 1,000, it’s not from a grant or a matching fund or anything, it’s from our endowment. But we firmly believe that this money must be used to protect our environment. “

The challenge was met at the end of April, Bal said.

Lichvar said Somerset Conservation District is legally bound to maintain these four AMD treatment sites forever, most of which are nearing their expected 20 to 25 year lifecycles. The Conservation District is currently updating these four sites, so the trust fund will provide funding for ongoing maintenance costs and future reconstruction needs.

“Forever is a long time,” he said. “We are the ones who have been maintaining them for 20 years as well and will have to maintain them for an infinite number of years in the future. The purpose of this trust fund is therefore to help defer the cost of this operation into the future.

“We’ve never had a trust fund (before), but we’ll have it for someone who has my job years from now, when he goes to physically build them and maintain them again. It will be a viable funding option (for them). It has been a huge challenge (to get funding) and we will try to make it less difficult.

Messer and Bloom said these AMD treatment sites are the reason birds, waterfowl and fish are now common sites along parts of the Stonycreek River, which begins near Berlin and flows to north into the town of Johnstown.

The rapids of the Stonycreek River at Foustwell are part of the river's allure among whitewater enthusiasts across the country.

“I’ve been cruising this river since the early 1990s, and when I first started you didn’t want to swim in this river because it was orange,” Bloom said. “Now I am amazed to see eagles, herons and (people) fly fishing. It is a living river because of the treatment (AMD).

Messer added: “(At) Sandyvale, at least last year there was a pair of nesting bald eagles that have been seen flying in the area. Herons (and other water birds), they don’t thrive in bad water. With all the sampling, all the invertebrate studies and the fish counts, it shows that this is a living river.

Help the Stonycreek survive

But the Stonycreek River cannot sustain this quality of life without continued efforts – and funding – to keep AMD treatment sites going Oven Run, Lichvar said.

“We have never disposed of a gallon of abandoned mine drainage, we are just treating it – and if that treatment fails, wears off, or goes away for some reason, the mine drainage will come back immediately because there is nothing to dab. .

“These are not AMD treatment systems, they are water quality plants. They take a raw material called polluted water and turn it into clean water. Like any other factory or manufacturing industry, they take a raw material and turn it into a usable product. That’s what these systems do. . . (and) they must be viewed that way in order to maintain funding.

The new goal:Contributions solicited for the Oven Run Trust Fund

Recently, the Somerset County Conservancy announced its own challenge, committing to a matching $ 5,000 donation when the trust fund secures its next $ 5,000 in donations. To contribute, visit the Somerset Conservation District Oven Run Treatment Sites A, D, E and F Trust Fund page on the Community Foundation website.

“We hope the Somerset Conservancy saw us and said, ‘We’re going to outdo them with (their) challenge’ and that’s a good thing,” Messer said. “Come aboard – there is plenty of room for everyone here.”

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