Planned for over a year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service expects to begin restoring the West Branch of the Wallenpaupack Creek in Newfoundland, in April 2018.
PALMYRA TWP. (Pike) - Planned for over a year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service expects to begin restoring the West Branch of the Wallenpaupack Creek in Newfoundland, in April 2018. The spring start raised some discussion at the Lake Wallenpaupack Watershed Management District board meeting, February 21.
Administrator Nick Spinelli stated that they expected the federal agency to not begin the work until the fall. Spinelli noted that there was much to do in preparation, in a short time if the work begins in the spring.
The project was postponed in 2017, and affected property owners were sent certified letters. There are still a few property owners along the creek which needed to be contacted, Spinelli said, and he and Carson Helfrich of the Watershed board were going tho be knocking on doors to apprise them of the intended project.
Fish & Wildlife provided their updated project plan to the district the week before, which Spinelli was going to be showing the property owners, so they will know what structures will be placed on or adjacent to their land. Easements will be required, and all this must be done before the work can begin.
Some of the board expressed surprise that the Fish & Wildlife Service was going to start the work in the creek bed when streams are typically at high level, in the springtime. There is also a trout fishing contest in the Wallenpuapack Creek in April. Spinelli said that he was told the contractor can work around the fishing contest by starting at either end.
The West Branch follows the county boundary between Dreher Township in Wayne, and Greene Township in Pike, and runs adjacent to the public park in Newfoundland.
What is planned
Fish & Wildlife plans to help restore aquatic habitat, as well as some of natural tendencies of the stream channel, stabilize some of the banks that are eroding because of how long and straight that section is, and reduce a gravel bar that causes some bottlenecking.
The creek was more winding prior to the August 1955 flood. Following the flood, a length of the stream, including the project area, was moved, dammed and dredged. Dynamite was used to straighten the stream and make the water flow more quickly. This proved to be not the best approach, Spinelli explained at a Watershed board meeting last year.
Much of the in-stream habitat was lost as a result.
The project proposes to increase the aquatic habitat of the creek by installing 35 structures along a 3,600 foot section of the stream. The structures are designed to benefit macro-invertebrates and reduce erosion, which is a benefit to water quality. Less soils in the stream will also provide a cleaner environment for fish to spawn.
The dimension, pattern or profile of the stream will not be significantly changed, according to the project description.
Most of the site contains woody riparian (trees and shrubs) area on both sides of the stream. The overhead tree cover helps to regulate the stream temperature, and the roots are beneficial in preventing erosion. The project seeks to minimize impacts on the vegetation. The only where the stream doesn’t have riparian growth is along the baseball and soccer fields in the township park. The area is mostly lacking trees and shrubs.
How it started
The majority of the project funding is related to the PPL relicensing process in 2004. One of the conditions of the renewal of the federal license to operate the Lake Wallenpaupack hydroelectric project was to arrived one-time funds to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for habitat restoration.
Several years ago, Fish & Wildlife asked the counties for proposed projects. The Watershed District toured several areas in Wayne and Pike counties. The West Branch in Newfoundland seemed to be the most appropriate, Spinelli told The News Eagle.
Ask if flexible
Michele Long, board chairperson, advised that Spinelli contact Fish & Wildlife to express the board’s concerns, and see how flexible the agency will be. Board member Eric Ehrhardt noted that the hope is to create community goodwill, rather than to upset the community if there were any problems due to the timing of the project.
Fish & Wildlife was submitting an updated Erosion & Sedimentation Control plan to the Conservation Districts. Long said the Watershed board should have a better idea of where the project stands by the March board meeting. Spinelli noted that the door to door field work can still be done now, even if the project didn’t start till later.
Wallenpaupack Creek is a tributary to the Lackawaxen River, and is 30 miles in length.Thirteen miles of the creek bed is beneath the waters of Lake Wallenpaupack. The creek empties into the Lackawaxen at Hawley in a series of falls.
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The Watershed District board meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center. The District office may be contacted at 570-226-3865; visit www.wallenpaupackwatershed.org.