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Thursday, July 29, 2010

PA DEP Reports on First-Year Efforts to Protect, Restore Walnut Creek Watershed

First Stage in Plan to Improve Health of At-Risk Erie County Resource

MEADVILLE -- The Department of Environmental Protection has compiled a report on the first-year accomplishments of a plan to protect and restore the Walnut Creek watershed, a key local resource that is under pressure from land development and related activities in Erie County.

“We have made great progress in the first year,” DEP Regional Director Kelly Burch said. “We are creating a ‘to-do’ list for the second year and beyond as we focus on improving environmental quality within the Walnut Creek watershed.”

The Walnut Creek watershed includes parts of five municipalities: Millcreek, Fairview, Summit, McKean and Greene townships. Commercial and residential development in these areas has surged in recent years, greatly increasing environmental stress and impairing the watershed’s ability to support public health and safety, economic stability, and quality of life for Erie County residents.

“During the first year, DEP worked with community partners at all levels to capitalize on the resources and community knowledge that each entity brought to the table,” Burch said. “Working as a team, we were able to tackle projects that individual agencies would not have been able to accomplish alone.”
Among the first year projects highlighted in the report:

• DEP, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Fish and Boat Commission and Millcreek Township’s water and sewer authorities funded and began designing the $700,000 Zimmerly Road Park project to enhance Walnut Creek water quality, recreational opportunities, and fishing access.

• Mercyhurst College received more than $100,000 through a DEP Growing Greener grant to conduct a comprehensive investigation and research study into the contamination levels and potential sources of E. coli bacteria within the watershed.

• Erie County Conservation District used a DEP Coastal Zone Management grant to send more than 8,000 direct mailings to property owners within the watershed to educate them on stormwater management and the importance of maintaining trees and other vegetation along streambanks.

Burch said that identifying sources of stormwater pollution within the watershed will be a top priority in the second year of the protection and restoration plan. Hard surfaces like roofs, parking lots and streets that come with development contribute to stormwater pollution if not properly managed.

The first year annual report is available online at www.depweb.state.pa.us  by clicking “Regional Resources,” then “Northwest Region,” followed by “Community Information.”  The report also is available for review at the DEP Northwest Regional Office, 230 Chestnut St., Meadville.