State of the Watershed Lititz Run continues to improve

By on June 1, 2011

By: ROCHELLE A. SHENK Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

The Lititz Run Watershed Alliance (LRWA) hosted its first State of the Watershed meeting May 26. With stormy weather in the forecast and a potential for rises in streams and creeks, the timing was perfect to discuss the impact the organization has had on water quality in the region since its inception in 1997.

"We’re all in this together. What we do in our own backyards affects the streams," said Logan Myers, LRWA board member and chair of the Warwick Township supervisors.

"And what we do here impacts the Chesapeake Bay. Everything here flows into the bay," added Matt Kofroth, Lancaster County Conservation District watershed specialist and LRWA board member.

He noted that over 47 percent of the streams in Lancaster County have been designated as impaired or polluted (having too many nutrients and sediment). Lititz Run, which originates at the spring in Lititz Springs Park, is one of those streams. However, data presented by Kofroth and Bob Walter, professor of geosciences at F&M College, indicates that Lititz Run water quality has improved thanks to the cooperative efforts of LRWA, local municipalities, local businesses and the community.

"The LRWA is a model for watershed groups throughout the state," Kofroth said.

The organization has also received national recognition.

Myers stressed that although the LRWA was founded in 1997, efforts to clean up the watershed began in the early 1990s when Greg Wilson of Donegal Trout Unlimited took an interest in the area.

"As trout fishermen, we were going all over the state to find places to fish. Lancaster County has the highest number of limestone steams in the state, but they were impaired and could not support trout. A number of us decided to see what we could do to improve things," Wilson recalled in a phone interview before the LRWA meeting.

"Greg and a handful of people started ‘rolling rocks’ to improve one area at a time. We got in the streams and along the streambanks," Myers said.

"We did a lot on a shoestring budget during the first five years," Wilson added.

The first project of this grassroots effort was stream bank fencing and stabilization at the Ed Hess farm on Creek Road. However this handful of people soon realized that they would need a more formal structure and municipal partnership to be eligible for grant funding to do larger projects.

Since LRWA was founded, the organization has received over $900,000 in grant funding and over 26,000 volunteer hours have been spent on projects that have included stream bank restoration in a number of areas, dam and sediment removal, restoration projects at Millport Conservancy and education programs for area students and the community.

"We’ve managed to touch about 95 percent of the Lititz Run watershed in some way, but there’s still a lot to do," Myers said.

He stressed that the success of LRWA is due not only to dedicated volunteers, but also to its partnerships with municipalities, including Warwick Township, local businesses, other non-profit organizations and the community. LRWA partnered with Warwick Township to create Riparian Park. Myers also noted that upgrades at the Lititz wastewater treatment plant have helped improve water quality.

Todd Kauffman of Severn Trent Services, which manages the treatment plan, explained that a $16.2 million upgrade was completed in 2010 to bring the plan in compliance with Chesapeake Bay initiatives.

"It was a costly investment, but it has reduced phosphorus and nitrogen in the stream," he said.

LRWA has also partnered with Warwick School District to establish Warwick Watershed Day for fifth grade students. Kofroth estimated that Warwick Watershed Day (this year’s event was May 10) and other education programs have reached 6,000 students in the past 15 years.

"Those students are the future of our organization," he said.

Warwick High School students also help to monitor water quality in the stream and nine different sampling spots. Their efforts are supplemented by volunteers who sample at sites in both Warwick Township and Lititz Borough. Tony Robalik of the Warwick Township municipal office said that testing is done on several variables — turbidity (suspended solids; very clear water with low turbidity is good), temperature, nitrates, phosphorus.

Testing for macro-invertebrates is done twice a year. He explained that volunteers keep a log of weather conditions for 48 hours prior to sampling, since weather can affect the data. For instance, two of the sites were dry last summer due to the lack of rain.

Although the Lititz Run itself has been tested for the past 14 years, Robalik said that testing was expanded to include the tributaries last year. Twelve separate portions of the various tributaries were tested in 2010.

Recently Walter’s F&M students have also been sampling the stream.

"The importance of this sampling is that the data not only shows water quality as it is today, but since the LRWA has data going back a number of years, it can be examined to determine the impact of the various stream projects. Having this much before and after data is pretty unique," Walter said.

While data is one way to see the success of LRWA efforts, Kofroth pointed out a real world success.

"Trout need clean, cold water to reproduce in streams. That’s why the Fish & Game Commission stocks a lot of streams. There are now naturally reproducing trout in Lititz Run streams," he said.

LRWA encourages public participation in its projects, especially stream clean up efforts. For further information about LRWA and scheduled stream clean ups, there’s a link on the Warwick Township website: More WATERSHED, page A13

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