Stream enhancements undertaken on Farnsworth Branch

Photo courtesy of the ANF A joint project to enhance the health of the Farnsworth Branch of Tionesta Creek has included the placement of “large wood addition” over several miles of the stream which officials say provides many benefits to the stream and surrounding ecosystem.

A multi-agency effort is underway to improve the health of the Farnsworth Branch of Tionesta Creek.

It’s a joint project with partners including the Allegheny National Forest, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Warren County Conservation District and Trout Unlimited.

The gist of the work has included the placement of “several miles of large wood addition” to the stream.

“If you have been hiking or fishing Farnsworth Branch of Tionesta Creek lately, you may have noticed that there have been some trees felled into the stream and the floodplain,” Forest Hydrologist Chuck Keeports explained in information provided to the Times Observer.

Five to six miles of such work were completed in January and February and bring more improvements to the stream than may meet the eye.

“These types of projects look very different from the types of streams we are used to fishing,” Keeports explained. “However, present day streams and floodplains look very different from what they looked like before the logging era that occurred from the late 1700s to the early 1900s.

“Not only did logging remove future large wood recruitment to streams, but streams and rivers were cleared of rocks and debris using heavy equipment, even dynamite, to make it easier to transport logs to the market.”

So, in some sense, projects like the one underway now return the stream to the condition in which it would have initially been found.

“During flooding events, large wood helps to slow flows and divert excess water up onto the floodplain, where it can be stored and reduce downstream flood damage,” he added. “This process also helps to reduce erosion and filter sediment out of the stream, which improves the water quality.”

The large wood will create pools and slow water areas for fish, cover and shade for other aquatic species, an avenue for animals to cross the water, a food source for macroinvertebrates due to accumulated leaf litter who are then a food source for fish, including trout.

“The ANF and its partners are working together to restore some of these benefits of large wood in streams,” Keeports said. “In these projects, we directionally fell selected trees that will benefit the stream function, and ultimately improve fish habitat.”

He explained that trees are also added to the floodplain “to help slow the flow over the ground so that water is allowed to infiltrate and sometimes create wetlands.” Storing that water in the floodplain also reduces downstream flooding and can “increase cool water release later in the summer,” he added.

It will take help from the public to ensure the stream enhancements provide their intended benefits moving forward.

“To protect the integrity of these structures so they can continue to provide benefits to their ecosystems, it is important that no part of the structure is removed from the site,” Keeports said. “Cutting trees that are part of large wood structures can destabilize the structures and cause them to move downstream during floods.

“For this reason, we are requesting that no trees or downed logs be cut that are on floodplains and near stream channels.”


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