Planting the seed for stream's sake in Pa.

October 04, 2004|by DON AINES

QUINCY, Pa. - George Crouch began his working life wielding a shovel 66 years ago and was leaning on one Saturday along the banks of the west branch of Antietam Creek.

"I'm back where I started in 1938 ... digging holes for Philadelphia Electric with my brand-new engineering degree folded neatly in by back pocket," the 87-year-old resident of Quincy Village said as he paused for a breather. Saturday, however, he was planting trees, not utility poles.

He and about 60 other volunteers planted 600 trees and shrubs along 4,000 feet of stream bank that meanders through the Quincy United Methodist Home property. Saturday's project was made possible by a $4,800 grant from the Canaan Valley Institute to the Waynesboro (Pa.) Lions Club, said Rob Schnabel, a Maryland Watershed restoration scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.


Dogwoods, chokeberry and arrowood were planted at the fast-flowing stream's edge, said Tammy Gross of the Franklin County Conservation District. Farther back, Cub Scouts, high school students, senior citizens and other volunteers planted ash, oak, maple and sycamore trees, she said.

"You need woody plants to hold these banks together," Schnabel said of the shrubs at the water's edge. The large trees, once they mature, will shade and cool the water.

Cooler water means more oxygen and a better environment for aquatic life such as the trout that are fished along some stretches of the creek, he said.

Because the waters of the Antietam eventually find their way to the bay, Schnabel said the health of this and other Pennsylvania streams relates directly to the Chesapeake.

"Forty percent of the bay in the summertime is a dead zone. Nothing can live in there because there's no oxygen," he said.

Silt and nitrogen runoff, often caused by farming, are the culprits, he said.

The east branch runs through farm country and two similar streamside riparian projects were done last spring in cooperation with farmers, he said. The plant buffers help prevent the runoff of nitrogen-rich animal waste into the water, Schnabel said.

More projects will be done over the next two years in Pennsylvania and Maryland with a $100,000 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to the Antietam Watershed Association, said Dr. Stephen Rettig, the association's president. The money will be used in partnership with other conservation groups in both states, he said.

"Our purposes are to preserve the Antietam Creek, protect the water going into it and to proceed cooperatively" with property owners and local governments, Rettig said. The watershed includes 91 square miles in Pennsylvania, where the creek begins in Michaux State Forest and its branches flow through Quincy and Washington townships and Waynesboro, he said.

While agriculture is a problem on the west branch, Rettig said development is the challenge to water quality along the east branch. Part of the grant money will be used for a stream assessment of the east branch next year and stream monitoring of both branches over the next three years, he said.

Schnabel said the Beaver Creek Watershed Association will do a similar project Saturday, Oct. 23, near Smithsburg.

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