Big Cove Creek Stream Restoration Project - Clevenger Property

In spite of an exceptionally rainy April, a much anticipated stream restoration project was recently undertaken along 1,800 feet of Cove Creek.  Several years in the making, the carefully designed and permitted project, will restore streambanks, eliminate excessive erosion, reconnect the stream to its floodplain, create in-stream habitat for fish and aquatic life and result in the planting of more than 500 trees and shrubs and more than 650 plant cuttings and live stakes.

The Conservation District has funded the project through a combination of sources, including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, PA Department of Environmental Protection’s Growing Greener II Program and the Foundation for PA Watersheds.

First chosen as a likely restoration area during a larger watershed assessment in 2001, the project area lies directly downstream of a stream confluence where Big Cove Creek is joined by a tributary that drains stormwater from developed areas of Todd Township and the Borough of McConnellsburg.  Approximately 70 years ago, the stream channel was straightened and deepened.  While this activity served the intended purpose of draining a wet meadow and making the site easier to farm, the channelization and disconnection from the floodplain removed almost all in-stream habitat for fish and aquatic life and focused the energy of flood flows through the site, passing greater energy to the streambank areas south of McConnellsburg.

Originally planned for completion by May 1, 2011, excessive rain and high flows have slowed the construction considerably and have made working in and around the stream difficult, although high flows have provided an opportunity to observe some of the newly formed channel under flood conditions, which can be helpful.  Designing stream restoration involves calculating a channel shape and pattern that will provide a healthy low-flow channel during smaller summer flows and convey larger storm flows without leading to excessive erosion.  In addition to many streamside plantings, specially designed rock and log structures are being constructed along the stream banks to steer higher flows away from sensitive areas of the banks during the several years it takes to establish streamside trees and shrubs.

When completed, the project will be an asset to the property owner and neighbors, but will also improve the overall health of Big Cove Creek, help to reduce flooding damage downstream and eliminate excessive erosion that can be a source of sediment and nutrient pollution to our local waterways and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information regarding this important environmental project or stream restoration in general, please contact Scott Alexander, Watershed Specialist, at 717-485-3547, ext. 118 or scott_fccd@pa.net.