Award Winner: Connoquenessing Watershed Alliance, Butler County
The Connoquenessing Watershed Alliance based in Butler County was one of five award winners recognized at the 2016 Dominion, PA Environmental Council Western PA Environmental Awards ceremony on May 26 at the Westin Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn provided the evening’s keynote address.
She applauded the awardees’ achievements in DCNR’s key-issue areas of climate change, water resources, and green infrastructure.
Secretary Dunn also praised the growth of Western Pennsylvania as one of the best places for college graduates to live, work, and play based on factors of jobs, affordability, and life outside of work, a testament to each of the evening’s awardees.
“That is the trails, and the rivers, and the greenspaces, and the places that the people in this room helped to build,” she said.
The Connoquenessing Watershed Alliance was formed in 1999 as a grassroots, volunteer organization made up of ordinary people who share a common concern for the quality of water in their watershed.
Among many projects undertaken by the Alliance, was the replanting of a riparian buffer along seven miles of sewer line crossings following the completion of a major habitat improvement project in Thorn Creek.
The original intent of the project originated from citizens concerns over the effect of the construction of the new sewer line along and through the Thorn Creek floodplain.
At each stream crossing, 30 native tree and shrub seedlings were planted on both sides of the stream bank, with a total of over 1,500 seedlings planted. Four in-stream devices were constructed to create an immediate fish habitat.
More than 30 in-stream habitat devices have been installed, stabilizing over 5,000 feet of stream bank and leveraging over $300,000 in watershed improvements through grants, donations, and partnerships.
The property owner at the project site has signed an agreement with the Fish and Boat Commission to keep this property open for public fishing, and increased angler usage has been documented due to the increased fishing opportunities available with the improved habitats.
Besides stocked trout, fishery surveys at the project site have shown thriving populations of 16 different native fishes, including rock bass, white suckers, and numerous other forage fish species.
Led by project leader David Andrews, a middle level educator in the Butler Area School District, this area has turned into a tremendous environmental education resource for the local community.
Students and teachers from local schools, local municipal business leaders and other concerned citizens have been given tours of the site to learn first-hand how the improvements are benefitting the stream and preview future plans for the site.
Butler Junior High School initiated a “Water Day” environmental education field experience at the site, involving over 40 students in various watershed activities.
Students released fingerling brook trout in the stream from the Trout in the Classroom project, assisted the Fish and Boat Commission with an electrofishing survey of the creek, completed aquatic macro invertebrate surveys with the Butler County Conservation District, and planted trees and shrubs from the Game Commission to help repair the riparian buffer damaged during construction activities.
This project has brought together many state and local partners, including government agencies, local municipalities, international corporations, concerned community members, local businesses, and a school district.
Thus far, close to 20 different groups or individuals have been active participants in the project.
The Alliance and other partners received the Governor’s Award For Environmental Excellence for the Thorn Creek Project in 2012.
More information on the Alliance is available by contacting David Andrews, 724-360-0290 or send email to: email@example.com.
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