Conservation District

Officers of the Huntingdon County Conservation District were retained for 2019 during the agency’s annual reorganization held recently in the USDA Building, Huntingdon. Board members include, front row, from the left, Russell Kyper, Huntingdon, vice chairman; James Weikert, Huntingdon, treasurer; standing, Huntingdon County Commissioner Jeff Thomas, chairman; Andrew Harpster, Spruce Creek; Dennis Johnson, Alexandria, both board members; and Michael Mowrer, Petersburg, who was re-elected to a four-year term on the board. Missing from the photo is Tyler Snider, Neelyton, board member.

The Huntingdon County Conservation District shared its expertise with several partners in numerous environmental protection projects and activities during 2018, reports Celina Seftas, district manager.

Following up on the district’s annual reorganization Jan. 3, Seftas reported that the district is proud of several accomplishments last year that involved numerous activities throughout the county. Heading the list was various student and adult workshops and environmental education programs.

One example included educational activities involving students from the Huntingdon Area School District. Seftas pointed to the February 2018 edition of the Chicago-based children’s magazine, “Ask,” that featured a four-page, full-color story about Huntingdon area students’ involvement in environmental protection class activities involving Standing Stone Creek at Huntingdon.

“We were really honored to have the Huntingdon area students featured in the magazine, that featured the story, ‘Our Creek,’” remarked Seftas. The magazine story focused on the monitoring and protection of Standing Stone Creek which flows near the students’ school. The magazine, produced by Cricket Media, concentrates on student educational activities related to “Arts and Science for Kids.”

During 2018, the conservation district attracted $227,454.83 in grant money from several sources which helped fund environmental projects in Huntingdon County. Also, the district realized $563,317.91 in state Dirt and Gravel Low Volume Road funding used to improve numerous rural roadways in the county.

Among last year’s accomplishments included cleanup projects involving the Juniata River. A total of 4.7 tons of trash and 160 tires were pulled from 5.2 miles of the river last year by volunteers from across the county.

Manure management plans were also written for farmers in the county totaling 34 while 9.4 acres of riparian buffers were planted in the Juniata River watershed in 2018.

Seftas cited the following partners who worked with the conservation district in the various environmental protection activities conducted last year: state Growing Greener program, regional and federal Chesapeake Bay special programs, state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and state Act 13 funds generated from impact fees from gas well operation (in Huntingdon County one inactive well is located in Todd Township near Eagle Foundry.)

The popular state D&G Road program was also beneficial to 17 municipalities in the county as well as the Pennsylvania Game Commission involving 9.66 miles of rural dirt and gravel roadways. Several new and “carry-over” D&G Road projects totaled 23, the conservation district leader added.

Heading the list of 2018 “featured accomplishments” was a D&G Road project on Pennsylvania State Game Lands No. 67 in the Minersville area of Carbon Township.

The Kenrock Road Drainage Improvement project, conducted in conjunction with ongoing acid mine drainage (AMD) abatement projects in the former coal mining area, addresses road surface problems involving water runoff that produce rutting and excessive sediment which runs into nearby Millers Run.

“This is a highly common occurrence on the county’s Dirt and Gravel roads, resulting in increased maintenance costs for local townships,” said Seftas.

Using D&G Road monies, new cross pipe was installed, allowing water to be carried under the road and discharged into a stable ditch. “Water is no longer eroding the road surface, so the road crews will not have to continually patch the road surface and the stream will not suffer an influx of excess sediment,” Seftas went on to explain.

Partners in the Kenrock D&G Road project included the State Conservation District, the Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Looking to the new year, Seftas listed several county-wide endeavors the conservation district will be involved in, using several funding grants. They include:

— two Chesapeake Bay “special projects” that will focus on stream bank fencing, barnyard runoff control and stream restoration.

— Two DCNR riparian buffer grants involving 12 acres of trees that will be planted.

— two Growing Greener grants for barnyard runoff control and manure storage.

— grant monies to help with Mariner East 2 Restoration. In Huntingdon County, four municipalities lie in the path of the Mariner East pipeline: Penn, Union, Shirley and Tell. Much of the funding will go toward grazing system, runoff controls and manure storage abatement activities.

— strategic planning activities which the conservation district and staff will be involved in throughout 2019.

Seftas also talked about the conservation district’s ongoing efforts in assisting county farmers with preparing erosion and sediment (E&S) control plans, pointing to a free Jan. 17 and 24 “PAOneStop” workshop to take place in the Tyrone Area High School in Tyrone. Registration starts at 5:30 p.m. and the workshop runs from 6-9 p.m.

The state program provides online tools intended to assist farmers meet regulatory requirements for agricultural erosion and sedimentation and manure management planning. The hands-on sessions assist applicants in developing state required agricultural E&S plans, using a computer and the Internet. Funding for the workshop is provided by Centers for Dairy & Beef Excellence, Pennsylvania Agricultural Omsbudman Program, Penn State Extension and the York County Conservation District.

Because space is limited, interested persons are urged to register early. Seftas said that the deadline is Monday, Jan. 14. For more information, or to register, contact the Huntingdon County Conservation District at 627-1626 (ext. 3022), or email agriculture@Huntingdonconservation.org.

Seftas also reported that the district’s new website is up and running, proving to be a “valuable asset” to the agency. She thanked Juniata College for its assistance in setting up the website, adding that the district maintains the system. “It’s an excellent communications and educational tool for the district,” she said.

Earlier this month, the conservation district board of directors gathered in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) building just south of Smithfield during which the following board members were retained: Huntingdon County Commissioner Jeffrey Thomas, Huntingdon, conservation district board chairman; Russell Kyper, Huntingdon, vice chairman; James Weikert, Huntingdon, treasurer; and board members Andrew Harpster, Spruce Creek; Michael Mowrer, Petersburg; Dennis Johnson, Alexandria; and Tyler Snider, Neelyton.

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

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