There is always a sense of euphoria that accompanies the successful completion of a huge project on which many people have invested a great deal of time, energy, and hard work – and the completion of the Watershed Assessment of Little Sewickley Creek is no exception.
In January of 2017, due to concerns about sedimentation and decreasing biodiversity within the creek, the Little Sewickley Creek Watershed Association (LSCWA) engaged the services of Civil and Environmental Consultants (CEC) to coordinate and supervise the first complete assessment of Little Sewickley Creek and its tributaries ever performed by professional environmental consultants.
Although CEC was charged with analysis of historic data on the creek, GIS mapping, evaluation of all photos and assessment scores, and then the delivery of a final report with assessment findings and recommendations, the actual assessment work in the main creek and tributaries was performed by a group of volunteers trained in USDA Visual Assessment Protocol by the Allegheny County Conservation District (ACCD). The assessment could not have been accomplished without their hard work under all sorts of tough conditions. Here are some facts about the volunteer portion of the assessment:
- 38 volunteers participated in the assessment, including members of the LSCWA Board; staff members from Sewickley Heights Borough, Fern Hollow Nature Center, Allegheny Land Trust (ALT), and ACCD; Quaker Valley High School environmental science interns; and interested community members.
- The volunteers started the assessment on June 28th, 2017, at the point where the creek enters the Ohio River, and finished on May 12th, 2018, in Franklin Park near Acorn Park, at the point where the main branch originates – almost a full year of field work.
- They walked the entire main branch of Little Sewickley Creek and all of its main tributaries – a total of 26 stream miles.
- They went out on 63 different assessment outings in groups of 3-4 persons.
- They spent a total of 813 hours on assessment work in the creek.
- They took 2737 photos.
- They dealt with rain, snow, ice, slippery and jagged rocks, log jams, freezing weather, humid, hot weather, ticks, flu season, mud, finicky GPS Units, and on and on, but they prevailed…
We are so appreciative of their efforts and of the efforts of April Claus, who served as the LSCWA Volunteer Coordinator on the project and who set the tone for the consistently high quality of the assessment work for each and every volunteer outing.
The main assessment goals for CEC were the following: 1) to identify existing impairments within the creek system that were affecting water quality, 2) to prioritize these impairments by severity, and 3) to make recommendations that would improve the health of the creek and its watershed. A Summary of the CEC Final Report Findings and Recommendations may be accessed on the Home Page of the LSCWA website.
We view the completion of the assessment as not an end in itself, but rather as the beginning of so much more. We now have a variety of different recommendations for improving the health of the creek from which to choose, and we can develop a plan of action for future restoration projects or activities that will enhance the creek water quality and encourage biodiversity.
That being said, we have already gained many benefits from the completion of the assessment:
- We now have a complete snapshot from this point in time of the main branch of Little Sewickley Creek and of all its main tributaries, with photos, assessment scores, mapping, etc. This information will be very useful as a basis for comparison when future land use issues arise.
- We can now provide links on the LSCWA website to the CEC Final Report, to the photos taken of the creek and its tributaries, and to the historic data and studies that were also analyzed by CEC. This information will be extremely useful for researchers studying Little Sewickley Creek and its watershed as well as for any other interested persons or groups.
- We were extremely fortunate to receive grants from ACCD and from the Colcom Foundation to help cover the cost of this assessment project, but if we decide in the future to take on some of the more expensive recommended projects, we will need to seek new funding. We are certain that the completion of a professional assessment performed by professional environmental consultants will add credibility and weight to our future grant requests.
- The volunteers who worked on the assessment developed a strong sense of teamwork and commitment to the future of the creek and its watershed. We believe that this group of volunteers will remain interested and invested in working with the Watershed Association on future projects.
If you are not yet a member of the LSCWA, please join our organization and help us in our important work of protecting and preserving Little Sewickley Creek and its beautiful watershed. Please also join us for the LSCWA Annual Membership meeting which will take place on Wednesday, November 14th, at 7 p.m. at Fern Hollow Nature Center. This will be an opportunity to learn in greater detail about the CEC assessment results and recommendations. We look forward to seeing you there!