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Spring Creek
Centre County
 
Dam Removal, Habitat Improvement, and Trout Surveys 2007-2008

Background - Spring Creek is a fertile, 22-mile long limestone stream that drains a 144 square mile watershed in Centre County, Pennsylvania. Spring Creek arises near Boalsburg and flows northeast through State College and Bellefonte to its confluence with Bald Eagle Creek in Milesburg. The watershed is geographically and geologically unique, characterized by a series of long, high ridges and broad limestone valleys. The Spring Creek watershed is home to a number of rare, threatened, or endangered plants and animals and also harbors one of the most productive wild trout fisheries in Pennsylvania. Significant groundwater input provides a stable source of cold, fertile water – ideal conditions for wild trout populations. Total brown trout biomass and the number of quality-size fish make it one of the best Class A wild trout streams in Pennsylvania and it is one of the few streams in the northeastern United States that support this caliber of wild trout fishery. However, the Spring Creek watershed is experiencing some of the most rapid growth and development in Pennsylvania, which has resulted in habitat loss and degradation due to increased stormwater runoff, sedimentation, and reduced riparian protection. In recognition of this important resource, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), in partnership with many other organizations (see list below), have undertaken several recent projects to protect, conserve, and enhance Spring Creek and its exceptional aquatic resources.

McCoy-Linn Dam Removal, Habitat Restoration, and Access Improvement Project - McCoy-Linn Dam was a ~12 ft high dam that impounded about a half-mile reach of Spring Creek between the towns of Bellefonte and Milesburg. A dam existed at this site since the late 1700’s in conjunction with iron forges, furnaces, and canals. The dam was rebuilt after the 1936 flood to generate hydroelectric power for West Penn Power. This operation ceased in 1950 and the dam had been idle and non-functional ever since, posing a liability and safety hazard, preventing the passage of fish and other aquatic life, and altering water temperatures and aquatic habitat. The dam and surrounding property, including remnants of the canal, were purchased by the PFBC in the early 1980s. After exploring the feasibility of refurbishing the infrastructure for hydropower operations, it was determined that the best long-term management of the site included removal of the dam and follow-up habitat restoration. From 1980 - 2007, the site provided limited and unimproved angler access. After several years of planning, coordination, and fund- raising the dam was removed in September 2007 and the stream was returned to a free-flowing state for the first time in over 200 years. In addition to removal of the dam and associated habitat restoration, a public access and parking area were created at the site in 2008 along with the addition of several instream habitat improvement devices in the former impoundment. Work for 2009 will include riparian plantings, bank stabilization, additional instream habitat structures, and the official opening of the public access area. As a result of the project, over 2,000 ft of this high quality trout fishery has been restored, public access for fishing, boating, and other recreation has been greatly improved, and portions of the historic canal system have been preserved with improved visibility of this unique artifact. Additional details for the project can be found at http://www.clearwaterconservancy.org/RCP%20-%20McCoy%20Dam%20-%20removal.htm.

Wild Brown Trout Surveys and Monitoring - An important component of the project has been monitoring changes in the wild brown trout populations before and after dam removal in both treatment and control reaches. With the help of partners, PFBC staff conducted electrofishing surveys at the dam removal site in July 2007 before the dam was removed and again in July 2008 one year after removal. Crews also sampled upstream and downstream control reaches in both 2007 and 2008. Similar to other dam removal projects where monitoring has occurred, trout populations are responding positively to the improved habitat, with biomass (weight of trout per surface area) showing about a threefold increase following dam removal (Figure 1). The brown trout captured during the 2008 survey ranged in length from 2 to 17 inches (Table 1). Additional monitoring is planned for 2009. Fishing in lower Spring Creek is expected to be very good during 2009.

Figure 1. Brown trout biomass estimates at the dam removal and control sites in 2007 and 2008. Note: biomass is based on first pass electrofishing catch rather than on a population estimate because only single pass electrofishing was used in the former impoundment during the pre-dam removal survey in 2007.

Figure 1

Brown trout
A 17” brown trout collected in 2008 while sampling the reach of Spring Creek formerly impounded by McCoy-Linn Dam

Table 1. Length frequency distribution of brown trout captured during the first electrofishing pass at ower Spring Creek before (2007) and after (2008) dam removal.  Catches were adjusted to catch/150 m (500 ft) as only 500 ft of stream could be sampled in the McCoy impoundment before dam removal.

  Upstream Control Reach at Bellefonte STP McCoy Dam Site Downstream Control Reach at Milesburg
Size (Inches) 2007 2008 2007 2008 2007 2008
1            
2 3 2 2   10  
3   5   5 3 11
4       3   3
5            
6 1 2 1 3 1 2
7 9 5 7 7 8 18
8 10 5 6 8 13 12
9 10 13 14 16 11 25
10 19 27 18 18 32 36
11 19 16 17 8 27 18
12 12 10 6 6 12 12
13 2 5   3 3 5
14   1   1 3 1
15   1 1   1 1
16            
17       1    
Totals: 86 94 72 78 125 146

Additional Instream and Riparian Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Projects - In addition to the McCoy-Linn Dam removal project, habitat improvement and restoration projects have been completed or are ongoing at a number of other sites on Spring Creek including (see project photos and map below for project locations):

Completed/ongoing projects include:

  • Instream habitat enhancement and establishment of a riparian buffer along an unnamed tributary to upper Spring Creek at the Elks Country Club Golf Course near Boalsburg (2007).
  • Instream and riparian habitat enhancements at the PSU sheep farm in Houserville including installation of new livestock fencing to establish an expanded riparian buffer and planting of the riparian buffer (2007-2008).
  • Instream habitat enhancement establishment of a riparian buffer along Spring Creek on PFBC property upstream of Rt 550 near Bellefonte (2008).

Future projects planned for Spring Creek include:

  • Instream and/or riparian habitat enhancements are planned for four or five additional sites during 2009 and 2010 including Spring Creek Park in Houserville, PSU sheep farm (completion of a few structures at the upper portion of the site), Fishermans Paradise, and lower Spring Creek near Milesburg.
  • Continue monitoring trout populations in response to dam removal and habitat restoration activities.

Project Partners - The PFBC would like to thank the following partners for their significant contributions and continued support for the Spring Creek Habitat Enhancement and Restoration projects. Of special recognition are the efforts of Spring Creek Chapter Trout Unlimited and ClearWater Conservancy who have provided substantial assistance with obtaining project funding, sponsoring the projects, and assisting with project coordination and management. Project partners have worked together to leverage nearly $1 million dollars in funding, services, and materials for the Spring Creek projects.

- Spring Creek Chapter Trout Unlimited
- Clearwater Conservancy
- PA Department of Environmental Protection
- PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
- Centre County Conservation District
- Centre County Historical Society
- Centre County Office of Planning and Community Development
- Centre Region Parks and Recreation
- College Township
- Benner Township
- U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U.S. EPA Chesapeake Bay Program
- Penn State University
- American Rivers
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, NRCS
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- Gleim Construction
- URS Corporation
- Stone Valley Construction
- G.O. Hawbaker, Inc
- Elks Country Club Golf Course
- Mt. Nittany Charter School

PFBC Divisions involved with Spring Creek Habitat Enhancement and Access Improvement Projects

- Division of Habitat Management
- Division of Fisheries Management
- Division of Property Services
- Division of Engineering Design
- Division of Construction and Maintenance
- Division of Environmental Services
- Northcentral Law Enforcement Region

* Groups or individuals interested in participating in the Spring Creek Habitat Enhancement and Restoration projects are encouraged to contact Katie at ClearWater Conservancy: 814-237-0400.

Project Photos-McCoy-Linn Dam Removal and Restoration

Project photo Project photo
McCoy-Linn Dam (left) and impoundment (right) prior to removal, July 2007
   
Project photo Project photo
Removal of McCoy-Linn Dam, September 2007
   
Project photo Project photo
McCoy-Linn Dam site in 2008 after dam removal and initial stabilization (left) and newly developed PFBC public access area (right), which will officially open during 2009
 

Project Photos-PSU Sheep Farm Instream and Riparian Habitat Enhancement

Project photo Project photo
Stream bank erosion and close proximity of livestock fence to Spring Creek before instream habitat enhancement structures and new livestock fencing were installed in 2007
   
Project photo Project photo
PFBC crew excavating trenches for the bank cribbing (left) and Spring Creek Chapter Trout Unlimited volunteers installing the bank cribbing during August 2007
   
Project photo Project photo
Completed stream bank fencing and riparian plantings (left) and bank cribbing (right), 2007-2008
 

Project Photos-PFBC Access Area Upstream of PA Rt 550 near Bellefonte

Project photo Project photo
Prior to the habitat enhancement project, this reach of Spring Creek was overly wide and shallow, banks were beginning to erode, and the riparian buffer was limited
   
Project photo Project photo
Installation of a large deflector to narrow the stream channel width, stabilize the bank, and provide improved fish habitat (left); planting of the riparian buffer (right)
   
Project photo Project photo
Completed deflector (left) and riparian plantings (right)
 

Map of Spring Creek
Map of Spring Creek outlining the locations of the habitat enhancement and restoration projects

 
-- Area 3

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