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Efforts spawning improved conditions

April 25, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

BEAVER CREEK - Doug Hutzell has fished for trout at Beaver Creek since he was a child. For years, he saw the water quality deteriorate to the point where he would catch one per day.

Thanks in part to Beaver Creek Watershed Association's efforts to coordinate the work of several groups, Hutzell said he is back to catching five fish per hour on some days.

The association, which coordinated a tree-planting over the weekend, is working with groups like the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Washington County Soil Conservation District to improve the water quality and habitat for trout in the area watershed, which includes Beaver and Black Rock creeks, said association president Mike Saylor.

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Saylor said the group is a "thorn in the side of people, pricking them to do stuff, in a nice way."

"We basically function to reach out to different groups that have funding and volunteers to help improve our little watershed. Everything that flows down these hills eventually runs into larger waterways," Saylor said.

Saylor said the group has submitted grant applications with two groups - the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation - for a total of $200,000 in Beaver Creek improvement projects.

Among projects the group is trying to fund is one that will repair the creek banks and redesign a 1,700-foot stretch of the creek off Beaver Creek Church Road.

"We want to do something for the most bang for the buck in improving water quality," Saylor said.

The association and the soil conservation district have already teamed to improve one stretch of the creek in recent years, Saylor said. He said the soil conservation district funded a project that included tree plantings along the creek that will provide shade to keep the water cool for trout and strengthen banks that have been damaged by cows from area farms.

Hutzell, president of the mid-Atlantic council of the Montana-based Federation of Fly Fishers and coordinator of the association, said keys to the project were removing sediment, which impedes the ability for trout to reproduce, and redesigning the creek floor.

He said the association hopes conditions will improve to the point where the trout population will not need to be restocked by the state.

Hutzell, an employee with the state Department of the Environment, said the true success of the projects will not be seen in the area for years. He said efforts have made a vast improvement at the creek since its low point about 25 years ago.

"I saw the decline over the years," he said. "In one day, I'd catch one little fish. Now, I can catch a nice fish within 15 minutes."

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