Dave Sutor did his usual excellent job of reporting on the legacy of John Murtha.
However, he missed, as most do, a major Murtha contribution, which was his willingness and ability to put into motion, from the federal and even state level, the initiative in the 1990s that has significantly reduced the historic abandoned mine drainage (AMD) pollution in the Stonycreek River and its tributaries.
In 1990, the chairman of the Cambria County Conservation District, W.R. Dick Rossman, and his counterpart in Somerset County, Dave Mankamyer, took Murtha on a tour of our local severely polluted waterways and asked for his help.
Murtha responded by mobilizing federal agency assistance and funding and charged his top aides, Brad Clemenson and John Hugya, to follow through.
By way of that effort, professionals and volunteers were mobilized and empowered by Murtha’s support and the Stonycreek-Conemaugh River Improvement Project (SCRIP) was formed that coordinated the efforts to put innovative water quality improvement systems on the ground that built the foundation for and have spurred the current economic revitalization efforts now underway in the Cambria-Somerset region.
As reported recently, the essential and perpetual operation and maintenance of the systems are now a heavy lift and even more challenging than was implementing the projects initially. Today, maintaining our legacy of clean water is a serious challenge. The political climate has changed, which has both reduced funding and emphasis on resource conservation, and we sure don’t have any John Murthas anymore.