DALLAS TWP. — The Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation wants to give the upper Toby Creek watershed a health checkup and needs Back Mountain residents to help, agency Executive Director Robert E. Hughes said this week.
EPCAMR, a nonprofit, wants to identify the creek’s tributaries, check water quality, habitats and areas in need of improvement to develop a Coldwater Conservation Plan, Hughes told a group of nearly 20 residents at a public meeting at the Dallas Township municipal building.
“We are seeking input from residents to identify streams and get permission to access the waterways,” he said. “There hasn’t been a conservation plan for coldwater fishery improvement for Toby Creek watershed.”
He estimates the last time the state Fish and Boat Commission surveyed the fish population was 1995 to 2005.
“I don’t know what we will find,” Hughes said.
The increase in land development could cause an increase in stormwater runoff that could raise the temperature of coldwater fisheries — where fish breed — and damage the trout population.
“Pavement can heat up to 140 degrees. As stormwater runs off pavement and roofs, it could reach temperatures of 80 to 90 degrees,” said John Levitsky, a watershed specialist with the Luzerne Conservation District.
Brook and brown trout prefer cold and highly oxygenated water, Hughes said.
“The warmer the water, the less oxygen is in it,” he noted.
In addition, sediment and nutrient runoff can cause gravel bars to form, blocking culverts and preventing aquatic organisms from traveling down or upstream, Hughes said.
Thomas E. Barnard, a civil environmental engineer with POZ Engineering & Environmental Consulting in Pittston, pointed out gas pipeline construction could have impacted Toby Creek as well.
Barnard reported instances where mud on the road from pipeline work was swept into Trout Run, a tributary of Toby Creek.
Hughes hopes Back Mountain residents will provide access to areas where Toby Creek crosses private property as well as identify areas of public access, which will aid in mapping the streams.
Levitsky offered Hughes his maps of tributaries flowing into Toby Creek.
Residents can go to epcamr.org, visit the agency on Facebook or call 570-371-3523 to assist in the analyzing process.
Another public meeting will be scheduled next summer to present the Coldwater Conservation Plan to the Back Mountain communities.
The Toby Creek watershed covers 36.5 square miles in 14 municipalities, which includes West Side communities such as Luzerne and Kingston boroughs as well as a small section of Harveys Lake Borough, Dallas, Kingston and Jackson townships and Dallas Borough. Twenty-four miles of the watershed are in the Back Mountain.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.