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State grants intended to improve Somerset County waterways

November 29, 2018

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced $1.6 million in grants Wednesday to various conservation groups throughout the state for acid mine drainage remediation. Three of the seven awards are for projects in Somerset County.

The Somerset Conservation District received $551,319 from DEP for construction of a passive acid mine drainage treatment system on Lamberts Run in Stonycreek Township. The stream runs just 1 mile from the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Lamberts Run also drains into the Stonycreek River, so the water quality of that stream should improve as well.

Somerset Conservation District Manager Len Lichvar said that this phase will be the culmination of more than 30 years of work by many local organizations to clean up the last source of acid mine drainage in Lamberts Run.

“It’s an ongoing saga of remediating Lamberts Run,” he said. “This should finally take care of the abandoned mine drainage into the Stonycreek, which will improve the water quality, fisheries, and put another layer of protection in case any other system goes wrong.”

Lichvar said it will probably be two years before the system is installed. He thanked the three landowners who allowed the conservation district to install the systems on their properties.

“This will put a nice ribbon around the watershed there where we’ve been trying to achieve success for three decades,” he said.

The Paint Creek Regional Watershed Association received $48,193 for a limestone system to treat acid mine drainage in Babcock Creek in Gallitzin State Forest. This project is expected to enhance the habitat for brook trout there.

The Shade Creek Watershed Association received $208,141 for an acid mine drainage treatment system in Coal Run in Shade Township.

Shade Creek Watershed Association President Larry Hutchinson was excited to hear that the department released this money for his association to finish its project in Coal Run. He said the group is installing a limestone bed the size of a football field to filter out the acid mine drainage and bring fish back to the downstream waterways.

“At the top, there’s an old mine up there where they strip cut, and, as a result, the coal companies didn’t do a real good job of taking care of the water,” he said. “The water then has changed into acidic.

“It got nasty.”

Hutchinson and the association have been working on the project since 2015, but weather delayed it. With this grant, Hutchinson expects to finish the project and remediate 4 miles of stream for the native brook trout.

“Right now, if those fish go into Dark Shade (Creek), they’re pretty much done,” he said. “We’re healing the rivers from the top down, healing the water, bringing back the water to the way it’s supposed to be.”

These grants were paid for with state Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act funds and a state Abandoned Mine Land Program fund.

DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a press release that these projects will hopefully improve streams that were damaged before environmental regulations were put in place.

“These projects bring together the best resources in planning, design, construction and maintenance to help bring streams back to life,” he said.

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