LOCK HAVEN After more than decade of work by Trout Unlimited to repair damage from highly acidic, abandoned coal mine drainage in the lower Kettle Creek watershed, native brook trout have returned to a once-dead section of Middle Branch, a tributary to Twomile Run in northwestern Clinton County.
"Improving water quality so that brook trout, Pennsylvania's state fish, can once again thrive is a major milestone," said Amy Wolfe, director of Trout Unlimited's Eastern Abandoned Mine Program. "The 13 years of our hard work is paying off, thanks to thousands of hours spent by the dedicated volunteers of the Kettle Creek Watershed Association (KWCA) who have helped make this happen."
Trout Unlimited and the Clinton County Conservation District conducted a fish survey on the stream and found that brook trout are living in the once-biologically dead section of Middle Branch.
A volunteer holds a brook trout from the Kettle Creek watershed.
The brook trout were "young-of-year," meaning they were less than 10 cm, which is a good sign that the fish are reproducing in this stream.
The stream also has an increase in stonefly and caddisfly activity in this section, another sign of healthy water quality. The improved water quality in the Middle Branch is a result of a system TU has installed there to treat abandoned mine drainage.
That project, a joint effort between TU and KWCA, was completed in 2007. TU and KCWA are working on additional restoration of Twomile Run to address mine drainage impacts there. The stream is a Class A (highest quality) native brook trout stream above the polluted section. Trout Unlimited has been working to restore the Kettle Creek watershed since 1998.
Brook trout, Pennsylvania's only native salmonid, have inhabited eastern coldwater streams for millions of years. Prior to colonial times, brook trout were present in nearly every coldwater stream and river throughout the eastern United States. Strong brook trout populations, often used as an indicator of healthy water, began to decline in the Kettle Creek watershed and throughout the rest of the West Branch Susquehanna River basin as early agriculture, logging and mining impacted these areas.
The lower Kettle Creek watershed contributes to the more than 1,200 stream miles that are polluted with abandoned mine drainage in the West Branch Susquehanna watershed.
TU established the West Branch Susquehanna Restoration Initiative in 2004 to restore the West Branch watershed.
Trout Unlimited is the lead non-profit organization in the initiative and works with state, local and federal government and non-government agencies on a coordinated, strategic and cost-effective cleanup of abandoned mine drainage in the The agency is North America's leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.