A Decade Of Growing Greener - Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team

The following Growing Greener Watershed Program success story was submitted by Melissa Reckner, Director of the Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team, outlining the how the program has made a real difference in their watersheds. The Stream Team is in the running for a $250 Growing Greener Anniversary grant.

The Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team was formed in 1998 to address concerns brought to light in the Kiski-Conemaugh River Basin Conservation Plan. This plan identified a need for a water monitoring program to collect baseline data on over 100 abandoned mine discharges in the Kiski-Conemaugh River Basin, which encompasses portions of Armstrong, Cambria, Indiana, Somerset, and Westmoreland Counties.

Photo: Alex and Nancy Lexark sample the Kolb treatment system.

The plan also identified a need for an increased environmental awareness since, in the late 1990s, environment and ecology were not mandatory academic standards taught in Pennsylvania schools.

The Stream Team has a developed, efficient, and effective monitoring program and maintains a strong partnership with the PA DEP. Because the Stream Team director trains citizen volunteers how to collect water samples according to Pennsylvania protocols, the PA DEP uses data generated by the Stream Team for its own use.

In turn, the PA DEP Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation permits Stream Team water samples to be analyzed through the PA DEP Bureau of Laboratories free-of-charge. These data are then shared with those who request it. Over 20 federal, state, and local agencies use these data to: apply for Growing Greener and other funds to remediate AMD, prioritize restoration projects, design AMD treatment systems, evaluate the effectiveness of treatment systems, improve treatment technologies, perform case studies for educational purposes, and/or gauge the overall health of area waterways.
Currently, the Stream Team is monitoring 150 sites throughout the Kiski-Conemaugh River Basin. Many of these sites are at the 26 AMD treatment systems the Stream Team monitors on a monthly or quarterly basis, while 18 are discharges that should soon be treated.

Stream Team data have helped garner and sustain over $10 million of federal, state, and local dollars invested in AMD remediation! Of this, at least $3.5 million have been Growing Greener funds.

This monitoring will become even more important as the state determines determine how monies are spent from the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) fund. Thousands of dollars will be invested, particularly in watersheds that have a defined Hydrologic Unit Plan (HUP) or are a Qualified Hydrologic Unit (QHU). Watersheds with updated water quality data will be among the first to benefit from the AML fund.

With the PA DEP’s support, the Stream Team can provide these data much more quickly and inexpensively than a consultant can. Furthermore, with the disbandment of the PA DEP’s Citizen Volunteer Monitoring Program, the potential for data gaps grows. Together, these points add even greater value to Stream Team data.

At its inception, the Stream Team was housed under the Loyalhanna Watershed Association. Through LWA, the Stream Team received a $5,675.00 Growing Greener grant in 2001 to support its mission of educating and engaging citizen stewards in maintaining, enhancing, and restoring the natural resources of the Kiski-Conemaugh River Basin.

Growing Greener funds provided HACH testing kits and thermometers and supplemented staff time and mileage. Several years ago, the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy, Inc. acquired responsibility for the Stream Team and, understanding its value, leveraged hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of the Stream Team over the years.

Through its environmental stewardship program, the Stream Team directly engages over 6,400 people, particularly youth, in “hands-on” learning every year. Recognizing that children are spending less and less time outdoors exploring Nature, investigating their curiosity, and discovering the many wonders of our Earth, the Stream Team has initiated six Trout in the Classroom (TIC) projects in Cambria and Somerset County schools.

TIC provides the basic equipment necessary to operate a large classroom aquarium and raise trout fingerlings from eggs. Throughout the school year, students maintain the aquarium system, care for and study the fish, and learn the importance of coldwater ecosystems and conservation. Most importantly, they experience a real, tangible connection to Nature that lays the foundation for good conservation practices and a lifelong commitment to stewardship. Plus, community support and involvement is fantastic!

In 2010, the Stream Team and its partners will again organize Outdoor Heritage Month, which is designed to celebrate and promote the Alleghenies’ rich cultural and natural heritage and engage citizens and youth in eco-friendly activities.

Acknowledged by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell and officially announced by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Outdoor Heritage Month (April) localizes numerous global and national environmental awareness events, such as Earth Day, National Environmental Education Week, and Arbor Day, while endorsing local celebrations like Westmoreland Earth Day and the Stonycreek Rendezvous.

Its purposes are to have people recognize that small steps taken in their homes, communities, and schools can have significant impacts on the environment and to have citizens implement changes in their lifestyles to conserve and enjoy natural resources.

Outdoor Heritage Month culminates with Outdoor Adventures, a two-day education event for 1,100 public, private, and home-school students. Schools from the Allegheny region are invited to attend Outdoor Adventures, which is held at the scenic Quemahoning Reservoir in northern Somerset County. Children participate in over three dozen interactive exhibits.

For example, they see and identify live stream bugs, test out a solar cooker, take a nature walk, witness the power of solar panels and windmills, go fishing, and much, much more!

The Pennsylvania Association for Environmental Educators endorses Outdoor Adventures, and teachers, parents, and exhibitors praise the event, now in its fourth year. Demand for it has grown so much that, in 2009, organizers actually had to turn schools away to maintain the event’s quality and schools are already signing up for Outdoor Adventures 2010!

The Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team and its partners are making a considerable contribution to enhancing the region’s quality of life. Cleaner waterways: support a diversity of aquatic life; attract recreation opportunities and new businesses; encourage local residents and visitors to use the resources; Stem the migration of young, educated people; increase local and state tax revenue and community investment; and enhance opportunities for environmental stewardship.

The Stream Team is honored to be part of efforts to restore Pennsylvania’s resources.

For more information, contact Melissa Reckner, Director of the Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team, 1800 Somerset Ave., Windber, PA 15963, 814-444-2669 or send email to: mreckner@kcstreamteam.org


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