Trout Stream Project Completed
Inside the Outdoors, August 03
, 2012

Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited in partnership with the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, the Westmoreland Conservation District, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Ligonier Township Recreation Board has completed a major trout habitat restoration and stream bank stabilization project on lower Mill Creek near Ligonier. The project not only improves trout fishing, but will protect the new hiker/biker bridge that expands the Ligonier Valley Trail and Bikeway.

According to Monty Murty, president of FTTU, “Forbes Trail Director Don Kowatch conceived the project and was the chapter’s project superintendent. Attesting to the importance of the project, the chapter received this response from Don’s cousin, former Ligonier resident Jim Kurtz who stated, “My brother drowned in Mill Creek. An unstable bank collapsed when he and a friend, against parental warnings, snuck off to scout promising trout hot spots. He was five-years-old. Trout fever runs in our veins. Thanks for getting those banks stabilized.”

As part of the project, TU has established a scientific baseline for the water of Mill Creek in Ligonier Township. This baseline test is critical evidence should questions arise in the future about pollution from Marcellus Shale gas drilling in the Mill Creek and Hanna’s Run watershed.

The science behind the test, called the Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction Volunteer Monitoring Protocol, was developed for TU by Dickinson College. Chapter volunteers were trained by Dickinson’s Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, ALLARM.

TU’s Marcellus Shale water testing differs from other water monitoring in several important ways. First, the test samples are taken by trained teams and preserved as legal evidence using chain of evidence handling. Samples are analyzed professionally by ALLARM laboratories using methods acceptable to US Environmental Protection Agency, and having standing in formal investigations and legal proceedings. Baselines are established for Strontium, Barium and other radioactive and carcinogenic indicators of Marcellus Shale flowback water.

Mitchell Blake, watershed scientist and Trout Unlimited Marcellus Shale Field Organizer supervised the Mill Creek test. For more information on TU’s Marcellus Shale program, contact Mitch ( For more information on TU’s Mill Creek conservation project, visit the Forbes Trail Chapter website.

The project was funded by Forbes Trail Chapter with a matching grant from the Pennsylvania Coldwater Heritage Partnership that includes Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited. This grant is the first of its kind given to implement projects identified in Forbes Trail Chapter’s Mill Creek Coldwater Conservation Plan developed under past President Ken Vallino. Since publishing its plan in 2005, the chapter has completed more than 35 stream bank restoration and trout habitat improvement projects along Mill Creek.

Very special thanks goes to the Loyalhanna Watershed Association for providing a professional project manager, Josh Penatzer and lending the strong backs and enthusiasm of their 2012 Youth Conservation Corps.


I just received word that bids are being advertised for the construction of a new visitor center at Ohiopyle State Park. The bid opening will be held on Aug. 16, with an anticipated notice to proceed in mid-October.

Ohiopyle is the portal to the Laurel highlands because it attracts up to 1.5 million visitors a year. The project will allow park staff to interpret park, community and national road history. It will make Ohiopyle a springboard for visitors to explore the park, national Road and Laurel Highlands.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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To buy my book, Off the Wall Favorites, call me at 724-539-8850.