EBENSBURG – Flood control is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to the health of local waterways.
During its annual legislative meeting Friday at Kosta’s Restaurant in Ebensburg, the Cambria County Conservation District highlighted completion of projects to date in 2019 to restore streams that have flood control levee systems in place.
The restoration of those streams in Patton, Northern Cambria, Nanty Glo in Cambria County – along with Cherry Tree in Indiana County – is meant to center flowing water, take pressure off of banks to prevent erosion, create a natural ripple for fish and other aquatic life and keep sediment moving instead of depositing.
Restoration of Little Chest Creek and Chest Creek in Patton is an effort dating back nearly 20 years, said Mark Stockley, resource conservation supervisor with the Cambria County Conservation District.
Days ago, the conservation district completed its final phase of the project to stabilize about a mile of the banks of those waterways and center the waters moving through those flood controlled streams.
When conservation district staff reached the last 100 yards of the project area along Chest Creek, Stockley said they discovered sediment about 3 to 4 feet deep and were able to push it aside to let water to flow through.
“Once we did that, it was like the plug was pulled,” Stockley said. “Hopefully, what we did flushes that sediment out of the system and will allow the flood control to continue to work.”
In a few weeks, the Chest Creek dam will be removed, a decision that local sportsmen and flood-prone neighbors disagreed on earlier this year at a Patton Borough Council meeting.
The removal of the dam is an $80,000 project funded by American Rivers.
Located upstream from the Magee Avenue, or Route 36, bridge over Chest Creek, the dam’s pool previously allowed intake for the borough’s water supply, but became obsolete when the community switched to wells a few years ago.
Removal of the dam is purposed to create an open stream through the borough, improve the ecosystem because dams create barriers to wildlife movement and artificially increase water temperatures.
When Patton Borough Council approved the project with American Rivers, Stockley said removing the dam would improve Chest Creek for recreation and wildlife, although at least six Patton residents attended a meeting to express concern about how it would affect their ability to fish and relax at the dam’s small pool as they did for years.
On Friday, Stockley said 30 years’ worth of sediment will likely remain after removal of the dam, which will need time to settle. After that is complete, Stockley said more work could be done to further improve the aquatic habitat there and even add a canoe or kayak launch.
Along with Chest Creek, Stockley mentioned several grant-funded projects the conservation district has addressed in 2019 in Northern Cambria, Nanty Glo, Cherry Tree and other areas.
Stockley said the end result of these projects, which included cooperation from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, will mean less maintenance for the municipalities in which the streams are located.