The Coalition is active in numerous projects around the watershed. Particular emphasis is placed on monitoring, planning, restoration, and outreach.
Assessing the health of the waterway is a major component to our efforts. Volunteers measure the chemical, biological, physical, and bacteriological conditions of the creek and its tributaries. Some examples of our monitoring projects include:
- Citizens Volunteer Monitoring Project: At least four times per year, volunteers for the Coalition sample a dozen locations in the watershed for the following parameters: water temperature, pH, alkalinity, sulfates, phosphates, nitrates, conductivity, chlorides, and stream flow. Twice per year, teams sample for macroinvertebrates. Volunteers have undergone intensive training and follow protocols developed by the Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement.
- Stream Visual Assessment: More than seventy volunteers divided into twelve teams are walking along Pine Creek and its tributaries recording conditions of the stream bank and taking measurements of the stream channel. This information is being entered into a database so that segments of the stream in need of restoration can be prioritized. This project was funded by PaDEP (Growing Greener), the Allegheny County Conservation District, and Trout Unlimited, and is being administered by the North Area Environmental Council.
- Pine Creek Bacteria Study Project: The USEPA, in cooperation with the PaDEP selected the Pine Creek Watershed to conduct the first bacteria study of its kind. This project called on the large volunteer base within the watershed to collect samples for bacteriological analysis. There are three teams who have been trained and are conducting background samples in the Fall/Winter of 2006/2007 and will conduct weekly sampling during the entire summer bathing season (May to October, 2007). The use of citizen volunteers to conduct sample collection is unique and has been very successful. It is anticipated that the analyses of the samples collected will be used to model Pine Creek for bacteria impairments.
- Carnegie Mellon University Bacteria Source Tracking Project: CMU and 3 Rivers Wet Weather Demonstration Project will be analyzing samples from the Pine Creek Watershed to determine the source of bacteria found in the stream. It is anticipated that the volunteers from the Pine Creek Bacteria Study Project will collect samples for this project.
In addition to having good data, watershed protection and restoration requires good planning. The Coalition or its partners have completed or are in the process of completing several important plans.
- Pine Creek Riparian Assessment: In March of 2010 North Area Environmental Council (NAEC) and the Pine Creek Watershed Coalition (PCWC) released a report based on the work of the volunteers in the Stream Visual Assessment project. The project was funded by PA DEP, Allegheny County Conservation District, and the Penns Woods West chapter of Trout Unlimited and was administered by NAEC. Over 56 linear miles of stream channel containing 122 segments were studied. Data was recorded at 760 waypoints and more than 1,700 photographs were taken. The data was analyzed using the USDA Visual Assessment Protocol. The USDA protocol describes the condition of the stream channel and riparian zone, taking into account such conditions as canopy cover, stream bottom character, invertebrate habitat, fish cover, and excessive nutrient enrichment, as well as erosion and sedimentation. Data was also collected about pipe outlets, log debris piles, exotic invasive plants, etc. The data was compiled into Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, photo JPG files, field sheet PDF files, GIS shape files, and Google Earth KMZ files. Each of these compilations is available (see the Report for more info). The report is presented in twelve chapters, one for each of the major stream sections studied. Each chapter contains
- A map of the stream, highlighting its location in the watershed.
- A Google Earth image showing the stream and waypoints colored by visual assessment quality ranking.
- Narrative describing the location of the headwaters, mouth, as well as notable features.
- Narrative generally describing conditions found in the stream.
- A table summarizing the visual assessment data by segment.
- Photo images and narrative describing issues of concern.
- A table summarizing recommendations for restoration, listed by waypoint, and providing priority ranking and relative costs. More detailed costs would be developed with on site reviews.
Issues that were consistently found throughout the watershed include erosion, debris jams, riparian zone encroachment, illegal dumping and debris, sedimentation, exotic invasive plants.
- Pine Creek Watershed Assessment, Protection, and Restoration Plan: In 2005, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, North Area Environmental Council, Allison Park Sportsmen’s Club, Trout Unlimited, and numerous municipalities released this Assessment. The document contains a summary of nearly two years worth of data and more than 30 recommendations to improve water quality and address flooding concerns in the watershed. It was funded through a PaDEP Growing Greener Grant. Download the Plan (pdf format).
- EPA Section 319 Watershed Implementation Plan: The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has received funding to complete a Watershed Implementation Plan. This plan will use computer modeling to estimate pollution loading in the stream and assess where to implement projects to reduce the pollution.
- The Pine Creek Watershed Conservation Plan: This document will summarize existing information about the natural resources of the watershed, gather public input about the watershed’s needs and visions, and develop a list of projects or strategies that will enhance, restore, or conserve those resources. Public input plays a major role in this project, so check back for information on how you might contribute. The North Area Environmental Council received a grant from the PaDCNR to complete this project.
- ACT 167 Stormwater Management Plan: The communities within the watersheds of Pine Creek, Deer Creek, Girty’s Run, and Squaw Run are in the process of updating their Stormwater Management Plan. One of the key components of this Plan is the development of a Stormwater Ordinance and the adoption of this Ordinance by all of the municipalities. The North Hills Council of Governments is leading this effort. For more information visit the Act 167 update page maintained by Ross Township.
Restoring degraded stream banks and floodplains will improve water quality and reduce some of the damage due to flooding. Several projects to discuss in the Pine Creek watershed include:
- Bryant Road Stream Restoration Project: Several project partners have completed restoration projects along this brownfield area. NAEC has completed riparian plantings and TU has worked with the Pa Fish & Boat Commission to install and maintain stream structures.
- Shaler and Hampton Townships’ PEMA/FEMA Flood Plain Project: Two areas along the main stem of Pine Creek (one in Shaler Township and another in Hampton Township) have frequently experienced flooding. Both townships are in the process of securing PEMA/FEMA funding to purchase the homes/property most affected. Several homes have been purchased and demolished in the ‘Shaler Flats’ area.
- West Little Pine Creek/Fawcett Fields Project: A natural stream design project has been identified within the West Little Pine Creek subwatershed. Trout Unlimited has requested Growing Greener Funding to collect data for the entire watershed, complete a stream restoration project in the Fawcett Fields Park (owned by project partner, Shaler Township), construct natural stream structures within the park, identify other projects within the watershed, and train the Visual Assessment Volunteers to collect data that can then be used by consultants to design/construct mitigation projects. Grant announcements should be made in fall 2007.
Outreach and Education
Educating the public and getting people involved in watershed activities is a vital part of our work. Some of our outreach activities include:
- Pine Creek and You: A Partnership for the Future: This pamphlet and accompanying brochure (pdf format) was designed for property owners in the watershed. It explains the history of the watershed and offers tips to residents to protect the watershed. In addition to this booklet, two table-top displays were created as educational tools. They have been circulating at libraries and other events throughout the watershed.
- Watershed Festival: The first Watershed Festival was held at North Park in May 2006 in conjunction with the Allison Park Sportsmen’s Annual Fishing Derby. The Festival had events for kids, fishing and kayaking demonstrations, educational booths, and live entertainment.
- Watershed Walks: The outreach committee of the Coalition developed a description of four watershed walks to get people acquainted with some of the scenic treasures of the watershed. Download information about the walks (pdf format).
- Fishing Contest and Stream Clean Ups: The Allison Park Sportsmen’s Club hosts an annual Fishing Contest for kids each May. They also sponsor annual stream clean-ups. Check back frequently for information on how to participate in their activities.