PennDOT Wins Award For One Of The Largest Endangered Species Conservation Efforts In North America; WPC Details Relocation Effort

The Department of Transportation Wednesday announced it has received an award in the regional America’s Transportation Awards competition for its work relocating an endangered species during a bridge project in Forest County.

The aging Hunter Station Bridge in Tionesta needed to be replaced, yet complications could thwart the project.

A bridge closure was not possible because it would leave the travelling public with a 42-mile detour.

The Allegheny River posed another problem. During the Industrial Revolution in America, most of the mussel populations were killed due to degraded water quality.

Yet near the Hunter Station Bridge, the area remained rural and undeveloped, allowing for pristine water quality and a healthy ecosystem for the mussels. The mussels would need protecting during a bridge replacement effort

For four months and at a cost of $25 million, PennDOT and partners-- Fish and Boat Commission, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service-- successfully salvaged, tagged, and moved more than 90 percent of the mussels in the direct impact areas of the bridge project. (See below.)

They were relocated to streams in six other states as well as other streams in Pennsylvania.

In the end, not only did PennDOT build a new, structurally-sound bridge for residents to avoid a very long detour, it included perhaps one of the largest conservation efforts for a single species in North America – an innovative project all around.

Click Here for a description of the award.

Mussels Have New Homes in the Clarion, Other Rivers

By Western PA Conservancy

September 1, 2015 was no ordinary day for more than 28,000 freshwater mussels living in the Allegheny River. In fact, it was the beginning of the process of being relocated to their new homes – in rivers like the Clarion River in Western Pennsylvania and in four other states.

“I don’t think people realize that there are actually freshwater mussels living in the bed of the Allegheny River,” said Eric Chapman, director of aquatic science for WPC. “This site likely has the highest concentration of two federally endangered mussel species in North America.”

Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation – along with several other state wildlife agencies from neighboring states, academic institutions, consultants and engineers – moved thousands of federally listed, threatened and endangered freshwater mussel species, as well as common mussels, from the direct impact zone of the Hunter Station Bridge demolition on the Allegheny River near President, Pa.

Together, over a 30-day period, the partners relocated a total of 36,419 federally endangered mussels and 7,915 common species mussels.

“This is easily one of the most important and exciting projects I’ve ever worked on in my career,” said Chapman. “We were pleased with the numbers of mussels that we relocated, and we will begin monitoring and tracking them  in the Clarion River.”

Original pilot studies for the relocation of the threatened and endangered mussels in this project began in 2008 and continued through this year with five states participating, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio.

In 2014, WPC completed its own surveys in the Clarion River, finding two common species of freshwater mussels. Using WPC’s 2014 data, project partners agreed to use the Clarion as a test river for reintroduction of the common species from the bridge replacement project.

“There have been tremendous efforts for decades to improve the water quality of the Clarion by the Conservancy and others organizations. These efforts of protecting land along the corridor and restoring sensitive riparian areas have helped tremendously in transforming this river,” Chapman added.

Of the thousands of common mussels, 402 individual mussels, of eight different species, were relocated into ten sites in the Clarion River. These species include mucket, round pigtoe, kidneyshell, spike, fluted shell, black sandshell, wavy-rayed lamp and plain pocketbook.

The remaining common mussels were relocated to various locations in West Virginia and Ohio.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is using this project to help jump start populations of the northern riffleshell and clubshell, federally endangered mussels species, in West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio.

The rare mussels were moved to specific locations in those states and to other sites in Pennsylvania to supplement populations that historically have or currently contain federally listed mussels.

Over the next three years, WPC and its partners plan to continue efforts to relocate even more mussels from the Allegheny River to help rebound declining mussel populations in other river systems.

Related Story:

PA Assn. Of Environmental Professionals, DEP Freshwater Mussels Workshops July 26 In Pittsburgh

Take Action:

How Good Is The Water Quality In Streams In Your Community? Take A Look, Then Act

[Posted: July 12, 2018]


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