Posted in Conservation Linn Run

Electro-Fishing Survey in Linn Run Watershed

On Thursday, June 9, 2022 a team of Forbes Trail TU members and Josh Penatzer from the Loyalhanna Watershed Association completed a fish study on Linn Run.  The sampling was part of the Coldwater Conservation Plan being developed by FTTU for Linn Run and its tributaries.  The crew netted wild brook trout, stocked rainbows, sculpins, blacknose dace and an abundance of stone flies.  Josh, who is licensed to use the equipment and conduct the survey, used battery operated probes to stun the fish enough that volunteers could capture them in nets.  Once identified and measured, they we all released back into the stream unharmed.  The crew sample four sites on Linn Run, including the headwaters, and one location on Rock Run, a major tributary.  The detailed results will be made available in the final CCP report later this year.

Electro-Fishing
Josh works the probe while Denny Hess and Ron Miller get ready to scoop up the fish.
Brook Trout
Native Brook Trout
Rainbow Trout
Stocked Rainbow
Posted in Conservation

Donegal Lake Receives New Bait Fish Condos

Habitat Structure Construction
Putting the finishing touches on one of the baskets.
Finished Structures
Finished structures ready for concrete block weights.
Loading Structures on Boat
Loading up the habitat structures weighted with concrete blocks.
Volunteers
FTTU volunteers take a break.

Volunteers from Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited assisted the PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) on Wednesday, July 27, installing new fish habitat structures in Donegal Lake near Stahlstown. The lake is a 90-acre impoundment owned by the Commonwealth and managed by the PFBC. Formally known as the Fourmile Run Dam, it is located in the headwaters of the stream and was originally constructed in 1967. For safety reasons, the breast of the dam had to be replaced requiring the lake to be drained in 2016. In 2019, the new $5.5 million dam was in place and the lake began to refill. It is now at its normal summer level. Restocking of the lake began in early 2020 with fingerling size warmwater gamefish, including largemouth bass. And this past spring it was stocked with trout.

Four PFBC staff from Bellefonte arrived at 10 AM with a trailered boat, fork lift and a pickup truck load of tools and equipment. Within three hours, twenty-five condos, technically referred to as short, vertical plank structures, had been installed throughout the lower half of the lake. PFBC took GPS readings of each location and will eventually post them on their web site to help fishers locate them.

Most of the structures were assembled by Latrobe Senior High School students as part of their wood shop course. Three were built on site with leftover materials. Nine concrete blocks totaling 270 pounds, were placed in each basket to serve as ballast to anchor them to the bottom of the lake. The baskets were carefully loaded with a forklift onto a specially equipped boat with a stainless steel platform in the bow. Once the location was selected, the baskets were pushed into the water to serve as habitat. Only two baskets could be transported at a time.

First, algae and other plant life begins to cover the structures which attract macroinvertebrates, which in turn attract small fish. The structures protect the bait fish from predators as they grow. But they frequently venture out, or game fish raid the structures knowing they are a major sanctuary for food. Anglers, knowing where the structures are located, focus their fishing around these food sources. It’s the beginning, and sometimes the end, of an entire food chain.

The project was funded by a Cooperative Habitat Improvement Project (CHIP) grant through the PFBC. Josh Penatzer, Project Manager for the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, coordinated the project and sent a request for volunteers to Forbes Trail several weeks in advance. FTTU members are always anxious to assist with boots-on-the-ground projects such as this. Seven volunteers showed up and worked closely with Josh and the PFBC staff to complete the project. This was obviously not the first rodeo for the PFBC crew or Josh. Within thirty minutes of arrival, they were handing out safety gear to the volunteers and loading the baskets onto the boat. It was one of the smoothest and most efficient operations we’ve ever assisted with. Forbes Trail appreciates the opportunity to be part of this project. As expressed in one of the photos, a project like this requires an inspector, supervisor and visionary!               

Posted in Conservation Rock Run

Limestone Sand Delivered to Rock Run Headwaters

May 17, 2022, Denny Hess led chapter volunteers Joe Bilotta, Bob Shusko and Monty Murty in a successful project to replace limestone in the headwaters of Rock Run, the largest tributary of Linn Run. Without the large volume of Rock Run’s cold waters, Linn Run may not be a trout stream in warm weather. Unfortunately the headwater springs that form Rock Run emerge from the ground at pH 4.5 and sometimes lower, way too acid for trout.

With a Growing Greener grant in early 2000’s Forbes Trail Chapter did something about that. We built a hardstand dump station in the Rock Run headwaters, and with a site prepared to facilitate gradual leaching of fine glass-grade limestone sand into the stream we began delivering acid-reducing limestone into the stream. It was left to us to keep funding the limestone. These sites are extremely remote and difficult to reach hiking, much less driving to, especially with a semi-tractor/trailer hauling 25 tons of steaming hot limestone.

May 17th we received the semi-annual delivery, and the huge and full truck got stuck in the mud! One of the personally satisfying things about volunteering with FTTU is working with friends who know how to work. Once Denny made the call that the truck wasn’t going to self-extract, the team instantly dived into organized work. Key to extracting the truck was Joe Bilotta driving back down the mountain and returning with his big Ram dually. Salvaging a big hook and clevis pin from Denny’s Jeep, and with buckets and shovels we got the wheels to grip and with Joe pulling we got the monster out of the mud “Highway from Hell” style!

Result; a fresh batch of limestone is ready to be moved into the stream over the next two years when we’ll do it again.

After almost 20 years of chapter hard labor and funding, brook trout have been restored to Rock Run to the extent that this past February the PA Fish & Boat Commission reclassified Rock Run from dead to a Wild Reproducing Trout Stream, Brook Trout no less, our only native stream-dwelling trout.

Well done good and faithful servant Ralph Koscianski and the members you’ve trained to follow in your footsteps restoring native trout.

With sore hands and aching backs yesterday we just stood there and looked downstream dumbfounded and thinking “The things we do for trout”!

Limestone Sand Delivery
25 tons of high-grade limestone sand delivered to the headwaters of Rock Run
Truck Stuck in the Mud
The truck got stuck in a muddy spot.
Posted in Conservation

DEP’s Integrated Water Quality Report Now Available.

Did you know that there are 85,568 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania? They’re all covered in the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s “2022 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Report” now available for viewing here –  2022 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Report
This assessment of impaired waters in the Commonwealth is conducted and updated every two years.  The report provides a wealth of information about what streams are not meeting EPA’s water quality standards and for what parameters they fail.  This is yet another tool that Trout Unlimited can use to help identify trout streams that could benefit from remediation services and help us prioritize where we want to invest resources.

Unfortunately, the 2022 report shows an increase in impaired stream miles of over 2,000 miles since the last time the report was done in 2020.

A description of the report can be found in the PA Environment Digest.

There is an interactive map where you can research any stream in Pennsylvania and see if it is attaining its intended use for aquatic life or recreation or if it is impaired by any number of causes such as mine drainage or siltation.
It’s best to view the demonstration video first before exploring the map.

Link for the Map
Link for the Demonstration Video

The report contains a wealth of detailed information. You can spend hours researching you favorite streams or seek out information on ones you’d like to explore.


Posted in Citizen Science Conservation Linn Run

Linn Run Cold Water Conservation Plan Update

Kick Net
Elizabeth Bruner inspects rock for aquatic organisms while Luke Sanner collects bugs in his net as they are flushed downstream.

Forbes Trail members and local volunteers wrapped up three days of water quality sampling and macroinvertebrate (trout bugs) studies on Linn Run and its tributaries in mid-November. They enjoyed beautiful weather for two of the days. But, the last day of macro, they had to deal with rain, falling temperatures and working under a dark pavilion to sort and identify the bugs. All in all, they collected a large quantity and wide assortment of bugs and the water quality in the stream is looking good.

Andrea Kautz from Powdermill Nature Reserve and Josh Penatzer from Loyalhanna Watershed Association were the bug experts assisting volunteers with sorting and making correct identifications. Strict protocols have to be followed for collecting the bugs from the stream, including the length of stream sampled, how long to kick the stream rocks and debris, and specific mesh nets to be used. The sorting and identification is a very tedious and eye-straining activity. Many of the bugs must be picked from leaf packs with tweezers.

Water quality samples were first analyzed stream-side by TU members for a number of parameters including pH, alkalinity and dissolved oxygen. Duplicate samples are being analyzed at St. Vincent College for additional parameters using a Microwave Plasma Atomic Emission Spectrophotometer. Analyses there include nitrates, phosphates and metals. Collectively the results will tell the overall health of the stream and its ability to support wild trout.

We thank all of the TU members and volunteers who gave of their time and talents to complete this portion of the study. We’ve had several volunteers from the PA Master Naturalist program offer their skills and expertise over the past year. We offer a special thank you to Elizabeth Bruner who is a 4-H and TU member and homeschooled senior from Blairsville, and Luke Sanner, 4-H member and sophomore at Hempfield High School for their participation. We are pleased to see the younger generation taking such an interest in coldwater conservation projects.

 

 


 

Posted in Citizen Science Conservation Linn Run

Woolly Adelgid Educational Video

Adelgid Eggs
Woolly Adelgid eggs on hemlock branches.

The Woolly Adelgid is an invasive insect pest that threatens and can kill our state tree, the hemlock. Hemlock trees go hand-in-hand with brook trout streams in Pennsylvania.
FTTU’s Ron Miller has put together an excellent video that explains it all and what’s being done to save our hemlocks locally at Linn Run State Park.

Click HERE to see the video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Posted in Conservation Linn Run

TU Helps Treat Hemlocks for Invasive Insects

Volunteers from Forbes Trail responded to a request for assistance from Linn Run State Park Manager, Corey Snyder, to treat hemlock trees for an invasive insect. The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) has been devastating hemlocks forests in the eastern U.S. for several decades. Once they get a foothold, they spread rapidly and within just a few years, a stand of 200-hundred-year-old hemlocks are dead. The insect, believed to have arrived here in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states from Asia around 1920, is spreading quickly through Pennsylvania threatening our state tree.

Of particular concern to FTTU is the effect it could have on our streams. The canopy of hemlocks along Linn Run and its tributaries could be wiped out, allowing the sun to penetrate and warm the stream. Linn Run is classified as a High Quality Coldwater Trout Stream by the PA Fish and Boat Commission. That classification, and of course the fishery and supporting aquatic insect population, are at risk.

One means of control is with predator beetles. But it would take years to establish a population that could naturally control the HWA. On October 14, FTTU volunteers assisted park staff in treating 9,000 inches (measured diameters) of hemlock trees by injecting the insecticide Xytect in the ground at the base of the tree to be absorbed by the root system. Foresters from the Bureau of State Forests measured the diameter of the hemlocks to determine the appropriate dose, then had volunteers inject the chemical into the ground around the base of the trees.

Volunteers were trained on site and told how to protect themselves while using the chemicals. The chemical works systemically by the tree absorbing it through its root system up to the branches and needles where the HWA sucks out the sap. This is a very expensive and labor-intensive operation. But our state tree and historic stands of hemlocks are at stake. Coupled with the impact of warming weather from climate change, our coldwater streams are at high risk. FTTU wants to help do its part. We may be calling for more volunteers in 2022. Corey Snyder expressed the Park’s gratitude for TU’s quick response to this matter.  “We couldn’t have completed it this year without your group’s help!”


 

Posted in Citizen Science Conservation Linn Run Rock Run

Linn Run Conservation Plan Work Continues with Macro Study

On Wednesday, June 16, FTTU volunteers gathered at the Grove Run Picnic area in Linn Run State Park to do a comprehensive aquatic macroinvertebrate collection and study of Linn Run and its tributaries. Andrea Kautz, Research Entomologist at the Powdermill Nature Reserve, and Josh Penatzer, Project Manager with the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, were the professionals who supervised the study. Previously, Andrea conducted a macro identification training session for volunteers via zoom, and both Andrea and Josh demonstrated the use of kick nets, explained the collection protocol, and oversaw the identification, sorting and scoring process on site. FTTU members with previous experience in macro collection led teams that carried out the kick net collection at 11 different sites within the watershed. Each site had at least 200 organisms captured. The samples were collected in buckets and brought back to the Grove Run Picnic Area where they were counted and sorted to the Genus level and then returned to the stream. All this work was carried out between 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm thanks to the great response we had from volunteers and Andrea and Josh’s guidance.

The numbers and types of macroinvertebrates inhabiting a stream are great indicators of stream health particularly the “high quality” Genus’s of mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies.

The final report for the Linn Run Coldwater Conservation Plan will be produced in about one year.  The study is to determine the overall health of Linn Run and the fishery.  Next step, based on the information collected, is to determine if there are potential remediation projects we can undertake that might improve stream health and trout habitat.

 


 

Posted in Conservation Loyalhanna Creek

Earth Day Litter Sweep

 

In conjunction with the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, FTTU celebrated Earth Day on Thursday, April 22, by holding a litter clean-up day on two sections of Loyalhanna Creek. The Latrobe crew worked from the 982 bridge to about 100 yards downstream of the Mission Road Bridge (Murphy’s Bridge) and collected 15 bags of trash and some large junk items. This area had not been done in quite some time. We had 4 (and a half!) volunteers work this area including Angela Schultheis, Everett Schultheis, Ron Miller, Ed Barger and Scott Minster.

The Ligonier volunteers worked from the 711 bridge to the Two Mile Run bridge and filled 9 trash bags along with some large junk items. This area was last done in 2019 since we had to cancel last year’s clean-up. The Ligonier crew consisted of Joe Billota, Milt Claney, Rod Cross, Monty Murty, Larry Myers and Bonnie Robinson.

The L.W.A. provided gloves and trash bags and Penn Dot will pick up the piles of trash. Thanks to all who participated!


 

Posted in Conservation Meetings

FTTU Meets with Yough Riverkeeper

Forbes Trail Chapter TU invited Eric Harder as a guest presenter at one of its recent meetings.  The link you see will take you to that presentation which was recorded on Zoom.

Many of us enjoy the Yough River and its tributaries for fishing, rafting, kayaking and boating.  And of course many of you are familiar with the Yough River Trail, part of the Great Allegheny Passage that parallel’s the river from Confluence to McKeesport.  The Yough River stretches from beyond Deep Creek Lake to where it enters the Monongahela River in McKeesport.  It is 134 miles long and stretches through WV, MD and PA.

Eric Harder, AKA the “Youghiogheny Riverkeeper” with Mountain Watershed Association, discusses the Association’s advocacy, conservation, and outreach initiatives within the Laurel Highlands region.  Specifically, Eric covers water quality concerns within the Yough Watershed and ways residents can help “Defend the Yough”!

Trout Unlimited works closely with watershed organizations like MWA across the Commonwealth and across the US to help preserve and restore our precious coldwater fisheries.

If your organization is interested in having Eric make a similar presentation, contact Eric at  eric@mtwatershed.com or 724-455-4200 2#

You can view the entire meeting on Facebook FTTU Youghriverkeeper Meeting.