Do you ever wonder about the streams you cross every day on your way to work, school or shopping?
Many people can’t name their local streams. And fewer know where the streams are going, where they have been or what condition they’re in.
These streams get little attention yet they are the arteries that keep the water cycke in good working order. Their health is closely tied to the health of every living organism, including humans.
The insects, fish and other organisms that live in the stream have a story to tell. Because the 24 hours of their day is spent in the water, their presence (or lack of it) often conveys more about the health of a watershed than other studies. There are problems that must be addressed if fish or organisms sensitive to chemicals or other environmental issues are not found.
If only animals that can withstand poor conditions, or if none at all are found, then the stream is no longer contributing to a healthy environment.
Unfortunately, the story of Lake Erie watershed focus this week is a sad one that can only have a happy ending if citizens get involved individually and collectively to do more to restore the Seven Mile and Eight Mile Creek subwatersheds.
Seven Mile Creek crosses Route 5 Near Glinoda Center, not far from where the stream empties its water into Lake Erie, the source of drinking water for millions. Eight Mile Creek is just a mile east. This stream empties into Lake Erie just east of the boat launch at Shades Beach in Harborcreek Township.
Seven Mile Creek and the tributaries that empty into it drain 20.05 square kilometers, or 8.69 square miles, of sections of Greenfield and Haborcreek townships. Eight Mile Creek and its tributaries drain 18.38 square kilometers, or 7.10 square miles, in Greenfield, Haborcreek and North East townships.
A stream habitat evaluation in the summer of 2010 rated both streams as suboptiomal. A fish community assessment in 2011 rated both streams as poor. Some of the sites at each stream were rated as very poor and one site on Eight Mile Creek had no fish at all. Both studies were conducted by Pennsylvania Sea Grant for the Lake Erie Watershed Intergrated Water Resource Plan, which will serve as a blueprint for restoration and protection of the watershed. (Both studies are available at www.paseagrant.org.)
You can help manage streams and their watershed lands in ways that maintain a healthy balance between our various land uses and the needs of fish and wildlife and to protect our drinking water too.
If you have propety near a stream, don’t mow to the edge. Make sure it has an adequate ripparian buffer or trees and plants to help regulate the temperature of the stream, decrease the erosion and flooding and filter out pollutants carried by runoff. Join to organize a community tree planting event on vacant or community lots to help improve water quality by reducing runoff. Practice backyard conservation by replacing lawns with native plants that don’t require fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Don’t dump trash, oil, or chemicals into storm drains – they lead directly to our water ways.
For moreideas and to join other interested citizens to improve the PA Lake Erie Watershed, e-mail Seven Mile Creek representative Sarah Galloway at email@example.com. E-mail Pat Lupo at firstname.lastname@example.org about other Lake Erie subwatersheds.