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Team Effort

TU helps improve area stream conditions

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Above, A modified mud sill — a product of a stream improvement project involving the Cornplanter Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Allegheny National Forest, and the Warren County Conservation District — protects the bank of Farnsworth Branch at a wide pool. Below, from left, Rod Henry and Gary Kell of the Cornplanter Chapter of Trout Unlimited pick out rocks from the bed of Farnsworth Branch flanked by heavy equipment from Warner Brook Excavation of Smethport operated by co-owners Dave and Tanya Okerlund during a collaborative improvement project involving TU, the Allegheny National Forest, Warren County Conservation District.

From chop and drop for large woody debris to modified mud sills and log cross vanes, the Farnsworth Branch is having some work done.

A collaboration involving the Allegheny National Forest, Warren County Conservation District, and the Cornplanter Chapter of Trout Unlimited has improved fish habitat and erosion conditions in the stream in Cherry Grove Township.

Some of the work is on ANF land. The effort has the permission of the private landowners for the remainder. A private foundation was involved in the funding.

In key areas along the banks of the stream, the team installed modified mud sills — logs parallel to the bank, backed with stone, to prevent erosion – and log cross vanes — logs placed in the stream in a V-shape, pointing upstream, that direct the flow away from the bank into the center channel.

Members of the National Trout Unlimited provided expertise, including dropping select trees — large woody debris — into the water.

“The first component is habitat improvement,” Stream Restoration Specialist Phil Thomas, out of the Lock Haven office, said.

He and Project Coordinator Scott Koser of TU’s Pennsylvania Coldwater Habitat Program were on site Monday through Thursday.

They carefully selected trees to drop into the water — ideally every 150 feet, but “it’s very site specific,” Thomas said.

“The leaves start the food chain,” he said. “When the leaves come off in the fall, it traps all the leaf litter, which is the food for the macroinvertebrates.”

Those macroinvertebrates in turn are food for fish.

“Certain species lay their eggs on the underside (of the woody debris),” Thomas said. When those eggs hatch, the newborn insects fall into the water — another food source for fish.

“It also does a lot for the watershed,” he said. “It will held reduce the peak flows. Everywhere that we put this, it slows the water down.”

“You get groundwater retention,” Thomas said. “Your water tables are higher in drought season – more base flow.”

“Because we’re slowing down the velocity, we will reduce the erosive forces on the bank,” he said. “You also get sediment retention. The nutrients that are in the watershed stay in the watershed.”

And, “we’re re-engaging the flood plain which is important for wetlands and vernal pools,” he said. “When the water spreads out, it loses velocity and drops out sediment on the flood plain where it should be.”

Doing the heavy lifting were co-owners Dave and Tanya Okerlund of Warner Brook Excavating of Smethport which has worked with the Cornplanter Chapter on some previous jobs.

The project included about 1.5 miles of the stream.

The fully permitted project includes re-seeding of disturbed areas including planting some trees.

Near the Farnsworth Road bridge, some of the disruption will be seeded, but not planted with trees in order to improve fishing access.

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