Group gets $100,000 grant to improve water quality

September 10, 2004|by DON AINES

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Antietam Watershed Association has received a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant of $100,000 to help it and partner organizations in their efforts to improve the watershed's water quality.

"It's going to be used throughout the Antietam watershed in Pennsylvania and Maryland," said Dr. Stephen Rettig of Waynesboro, president of the nonprofit association that was formed two years ago.

According to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Web site, the grant will be used to provide farmers with materials to fence off six miles of stream to keep livestock out of waterways and restore or enhance 50 acres of riparian buffer and up to 10 acres of wetlands.


It will also be used to develop an outreach campaign to the Mennonite community and to educate and encourage farmers to participate in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Farm Stewardship Program, according to the grant description.

A detailed assessment of the east branch of the Antietam also will be done, according to association Vice President Pat Heefner. The assessment will help determine the effect on the watershed of proposed commercial and residential development and identify remedies such as stormwater management projects, she said.

The grant identifies a number of partners with the association that will contribute another $114,000 to the various projects. Those partners include the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Franklin County Conservation District, Dickinson College, Penn State Mont Alto and Trout Unlimited.

In Pennsylvania, the watershed includes the area from the head waters of the Antietam Creek near South Mountain, Pa., and the area of the east and west branches of the Antietam. The branches join together at the Maryland line and flow into the Potomac River, according to Rettig.

About 91 square miles of the watershed is in Pennsylvania, he said. The two major problems facing the watershed are high levels of nitrates and a lack of forest buffers along the creek's course, according to Rettig.

In two years, the association has done two riparian projects along Marsh Run and a third on West Antietam Creek. Rettig said the association works with farmers, urging them to fence off sections of the waterways from their livestock. Between the fences and the banks, volunteers plant vegetation that prevents erosion, filters the water before it enters creeks and streams and provides shade to cool the water and protect aquatic life, he said.

Because so much of the waterways are exposed to sunlight, Rettig said the water is too warm to promote natural breeding of trout and other fish. "Most of the trout that are in there now are stocked," he said.

Next month, the association will do a streamside project along a section of the Antietam that flows through the Quincy Village retirement community, Rettig said.

"They've worked hard to secure the grant," Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher said. "They're working hard with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to do all the right things and keep the quality of water in our creeks as high as possible," he said.

Christopher said he hopes the association and township can work closely together on future water quality projects.

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