The Huntingdon County Conservation District has a new board member, Alicia Palmer, who was sworn in at a recent reorganization session held by Zoom.

Palmer, who is an environmental stewardship ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Raystown Lake, brings to the conservation district board a background in fisheries and wildlife conservation as well as conservation education.

Retained district board members include Russell Kyper, a Hesston area farmer who has served since 2009, and Andrew Harpster, a Spruce Creek area farmer who began his duties on the board in 2013.

Other members comprising the conservation district board include Huntingdon County Commission and district board chairman Jeff Thomas, Denny Johnson, Juniata College, secretary/treasurer; Michael Mowrer, Petersburg; and Jama Hampson, Neelyton.

The year 2020 has been a busy one for the district despite the COVID-19 challenge with conservation district personnel continuing their work virtually, explained Celina Seftas, conservation district manager since 2016.

Seftas shared a copy of the conservation district 2020 activities report which she highlighted for the county commissioners late last year.

“The conservation district benefited from various funding sources last year totaling $416,471.41,” reported Seftas. “The district was very active last year and is pleased with a number of accomplishments.”

Heading the list was the preparation of the Standing Stone Creek Coldwater Conservation Plan, explained the conservation district manager, adding that the valuable water route is now eligible to be upgraded to an exceptional value stream. The plan is being submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection for review, Seftas said.

Last year, district personnel sampled 11 sites measuring water quality, habitat, fish and macroinvertebrate data and identified one tributary that is potentially an impaired stream that will require more study.

Also, a countywide water quality monitoring project showed improvements in areas where the district has installed many conservation measures over the past several years, noted Seftas.

She went on to report that the Warrior’s Mark stream health experienced an improved stream health score from 27 in 2005, to 50 last year.

In other accomplishments in 2020 the district manager reported activities in agriculture, erosion and sedimentation, Dirt & Gravel and Low Volume Roads and watershed work.

Agriculture

— preserved 101.29 acres of prime farmland in a permanent easement program (Robert Metz farm in Big Valley).

— hosted a virtual pasture walk series.

— installed agricultural conservation practices on three farms focusing on fencing and watering systems for grazing systems, field drainage and runoff controls.

— assisted with 11 REAP applications for an additional income of $498,286 in tax credits for participating county farmers.

E&S activities

— reviewed 32 E&S and NPDES plans.

— provided technical assistance for 29 projects.

— completed 59 site inspections.

Dirt & Gravel Road

— created a virtual Dirt & Gravel Road tour.

— completed nine projects and improved 4.55 miles of roadway.

Watershed work

— planted six new acres of forested riparian buffer.

— provided educational outreach to 175 students and 97,124 online contacts.

Looking ahead, Seftas noted that 27.5 acres of land will be considered for riparian buffer work, stabilization work that will involve 1,730 feet of streambank, 3,190 feet of streambank fencing, two manure storage facilities and runoff controls at five area farms.

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

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