A weekly blog for all things conservation
By: The Bradford County Conservation District
If you read last week’s article discussing stream permit options, there was mention of a “new” permit option for Bradford County. In this week’s article, we’ll discuss the evolution of that permit, what it is, and how you would go about qualifying for it.
The proposed change to traditional permitting really all started after the devastating floods of 2011 (yes, 8 years ago!). Conservation District staff as well as local officials recognized a need to be proactive instead of reactive when addressing hazardous stream conditions. Too often cumbersome permitting regulations, high fees, and little guidance to help landowners and municipal officials address stream problems got in the way of making proper changes at the right time. Subsequently, a problem site would continue to be a problem site if not repaired at the right time and in the right way.
How do we know what’s the right way to correct a stream issue? Well, honestly sometimes we don’t, and maybe sometimes we shouldn’t (What?! – we’ll touch on this more in a minute). Streams are dynamic – by design, they’re meant to change. This is sometimes hard to cope with especially if there haven’t been major changes for a long period of time, maybe even in our lifetime. It becomes even harder to handle when we live or work near a stream and an unexpected change occurs.
The most obvious stream changes come after a major storm event, which we’ve seen quite regularly over the past few years. Streams may look unraveled with gravel and debris strewn all over the place and our first reaction is to put everything back to the way it was and maybe do some extra work, such as widening and dredging the channel. While the pressure to get into the area and move material to protect ourselves and our property is understood, it’s important to understand how the stream has changed as a result of the flood. It’s also important to be sure we don’t cause additional problems for ourselves and our neighbors as a result of our actions. A quick assessment can provide valuable information that will help determine how much work needs to be done and how the problem can be resolved. Depending on how wide-spread the damage is, the objective is to do the most good with the least effort and the least future impact. This is accomplished by addressing the most pressing problem areas and phasing the work so more complex work is left to the later stage of storm recovery. This new permitting option will have an educational component that should provide guidance to those working in streams to help them recognize where to concentrate their efforts. This is where we may need to recognize an area that does not require immediate action.
Recently, the PA Department of Environmental Protection has entered into an agreement with BCCD to try a new way to help local landowners, contractors, and public officials address stream issues. A 3-year Pilot Program referred to as Emergency Stream Intervention (ESI), has been acknowledged that will allow for an expedited approach to dealing with hazards in streams before a major storm event happens. The goal is to prevent these hazards from turning into emergencies. BCCD can now authorize Emergency Permits (EPs) to trained individuals to be used to alleviate an imminent threat to life, property, or the environment.
We previously made mention of an educational component with this program, and here’s how it will work. First, those interested in participating in ESI must attend a 3-day training. Those attending and completing this training will be provided tools (handouts, no one’s going home with a bulldozer!) and knowledge to better address stream problems. Only those attending this course will be eligible for this permit. If a landowner would like to obtain this permit and they haven’t had the training, they could work with a contractor or someone else that has attended. BCCD will keep a list of contractors and municipal workers that have gone through the training for landowners looking for assistance.
Day 1 of the 3-day training will provide an overview of stream mechanics, show how human activities can impact stream health, show how to prioritize problem spots, and discuss the importance of floodplains and how important they are to the overall health of a watershed. Days 2 and 3 of the training will be an in-field demonstration of the construction process.
Day 1 of the 3-day training will take place on October 30, 2019. If you are interested and would like to attend the training, please contact BCCD at the number listed below and leave your name, organization, and contact information.
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.
Various staff at the Bradford County Conservation District