Spring Run Stream Restoration Project - R&R Farms

A nearly one-mile long section of Spring Run near Webster’s Mill received an impressive facelift over the course of the last year.  Spring Run, a tributary to Big Cove Creek, is a unique Fulton County stream, fed by large limestone springs.  The stream has tremendous potential to support trout and provide cool, clean water to sections of Cove Creek already well known for trout fishing.

Targeted as a priority for restoration since 2001, Spring Run has, for some time, been officially recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection as an agriculturally impaired stream.  More than two centuries of human impacts, including logging, plowing, grazing and road building has taken a toll on this unique stream.

The recent restoration project near the bottom of Spring Run was the finishing touch on more than a decade of environmental improvement efforts by farm owners and operators along Spring Run.  More than half a dozen farm families have worked with the Fulton County Conservation District to:

·         eliminate livestock access to the creek and better utilize manure on the farm

·         provide off stream watering for livestock

·         improve or replace barnyards near the creek

·         build improved manure storage facilities

·         create grass or forested buffers along the edge of the stream

·         eliminate erosion and improve trout habitat along the banks of Spring Run

Several years ago, with many of the smaller projects completed or underway, the Conservation District and cooperating landowners began efforts to fund a significant stream restoration project along the lower reaches of Spring Run.  The PA Department of Environmental Protection took an interest in the local efforts and partially funded the proposed project using funds obtained through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  $283,750 of funding was granted for the project, for the purpose of reducing sediment and nutrient pollution to Spring Run and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. Additional funding was provided by the USDA Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and the Foundation for PA Watersheds.  All together, more than $400,000 in environmental restoration funding was made available to improve one of Fulton County’s most unique natural resources.  

Mother Nature provided plenty of challenges through the warm season of 2011, but the project overcame spring floods, July drought, and a wet fall.  Aquatic Resource Restoration Company, from Seven Valleys, PA was the contractor who oversaw the design, permitting and construction of the ambitious project.  When all was said and done, approximately 4,600 feet of stream were dramatically improved.  3,500 feet of stream received a complete restoration including bank grading, installation of rock and log structures for improved habitat and stability, and planting of streamside trees and shrubs.  Another 1100 feet of stream, which did not suffer from erosive banks and unstable channel patterns, received fish habitat improvements and streamside plantings.  More than 6,000 feet of new high tensile electric fence was built to eliminate cattle access to the entire 4,600 feet of improved stream.  The ten acres of streamside buffers, now located inside that fence, were planted with more than 1,300 trees and shrubs and include over an acre of wetlands which will provide ecological benefits to water quality and wildlife.

Landowners, utilizing funds provided through the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, will maintain the newly planted trees and shrubs inside the fence, and will also control invasive plants that often try to find a foothold in newly planted streamside forests.

The newly improved stream channel now provides nearly one mile of high quality trout habitat, in the form of riffles, runs and pools where there had been virtually no favorable fish habitat.  Spring Run serves as an important cold water refuge for the fish found throughout the lower sections of Big Cove Creek, and it is hoped that the improvements along the course of Spring Run may allow trout to once again utilize this refuge and reproduce in the Great Cove, where there is currently no known natural trout reproduction.

Conservation District officials and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection are hopeful that conservation and restoration improvements throughout the Spring Run watershed will lead to the removal of the stream from the list of streams officially recognized as “impaired” in Fulton County.

The Fulton County Conservation District wishes to thank all those involved in developing, designing, funding and implementing the restoration project, and would like to recognize the Richards, Randler and Bain families for their commitment to improve water quality in Fulton County. 

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.