USC Citizens for Land Stewardship
Conservation and stewardship of land and natural resources in Upper St. Clair

McLaughlin Run Project

McLaughlin Run Watershed Restoration - A Community Partnership

by Jeff Wagner, Vice-president USC Citizens for Land Stewardship

The McLaughlin Run Watershed Restoration Project keeps growing. This project was first reported in an article in Upper St Clair TODAY in the Spring of 1999. The partnership between the Township and USC Citizens for Land Stewardship (CLS) as been so successful that now Bridgeville Borough and the Municipality of Bethel Park are joining in the effort to improve the water quality and stream conditions within the McLaughlin Run Watershed (a tributary within the Chartiers Creek watershed). As we add more stream to the original 1000 foot project, we increase the effectiveness of our effort to improve water quality and create habitat in and along the stream.

We began our work with McLaughlin Run several years ago with our first grant application to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for a small-scale planting along a section of stream bank near the golf course. Original streambank in need of restoration. Since then, CLS and the Township have gone on to apply for and receive three more grants, each designed to allow us to continue the work from the previous. Together, we have recently submitted a fourth for an upstream project that will include Bethel Park.

These grants have been channeled from the state Growing Greener program and the federal EPA-319 program administered through the Environmental Protection Agency. In either case, the programs are designed to fund improvements in watersheds to reduce pollution inputs, reduce stormwater impacts, and improve water quality. The entire package of grants for McLaughlin Run means, essentially, extending the total length of our work along the stream and achieving better overall results.

The whole process of securing funds, working with numerous partners, and keeping track of everything has been challenging. The rapid pace of the grant programs has, in some ways, made it difficult to finish one piece of the project before turning attention to another. For anyone not familiar with the details of the grants and the project plans, it's hard to see what work as been done and what will be done.

A critical part of Phase I was to have a Watershed Assessment Report written, first, to describe, classify, and evaluate the entire stream corridor; Original streambank looking downstream from wooden bridge at Rec Center. and, second, to prioritize the reaches of the stream, in order to determine the best areas, and set the direction, for future restoration efforts. This report is an invaluable, integrative tool that is already being used as a guide to systematically improve the streambank stability and waterside (riparian corridor) habitats of the McLaughlin Run watershed.

For Phase I through Phase III, the McLaughlin Run WSR Project will focus on a section of the stream from the recreation center bridge downstream to the bridge just upstream of the tennis courts, give or take a few feet. Reconstructed and replanted streambank looking upstream near Rec Center. In this section, Skelly & Loy - the engineering consultants who developed the assessment of the watershed - have begun to develop restoration designs and from those designs, CLS and the Township will work together to implement the plans. Phase IV involves a section of the stream on the Upper St. Clair - Bethel Park border near the bridge crossing on Walther Lane.

Already, there are many changes in the primary project area. Streambank today, looking upstream toward wooden bridge at Rec Center. The streambed and stream banks have been altered according to a natural channel design. In that way a more natural water flow, even under storm conditions, more stable stream banks (reduced erosion), and more riparian plantings, with native plant species, will support better aquatic and terrestrial habitats. In addition, pollution levels will decline and the area will be more attractive for all to enjoy.

In all, expect to see in-stream rock structures constructed, stream banks graded and planted, and other riparian plantings established. Streambank today, looking downstream near Rec Center. The work that we expect to do will be substantial and not be easily missed.

Many volunteers from the community helped with the Gilfillan Farm planting and with some plantings in the upper terraces along the golf course. These were both part of the Phase I activities. More volunteers will be needed to plant other sections along McLaughlin Run as part of the restoration design. This activity began in Spring 2001, and will continue over the next few years.

In conjunction with the restoration, CLS is setting up a stream monitoring program as part of the DEP's statewide Citizens Volunteer Monitoring Program. That activity will be described in detail as it evolves, and it will continue over a period of years. This will also offer an opportunity for people to join in and contribute to this watershed project. We will again turn to our friends in the community for help in planting and monitoring. Keep you ears open for a call for volunteers.

On Community Day (May 19, 2001), we began an education program to explain what has been done, why it is beneficial, and what is planned for the future. This CLS and Township partnership project represents a positive step forward in watershed stewardship. The active awareness and participation in this community, and with our community neighbors both upstream and downstream, will bring a better understanding of, and cooperation in resolving, water quality and management problems in the McLaughlin Run, and ultimately in the greater Chartiers Creek, watershed.

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