Restoration & Conservation

Topic Overview

The Pennsylvania portion of the Lake Erie watershed, located in northwest Pennsylvania, drains an area of 508 square miles. There are 56 streams totaling a length of 1,121 miles within the watershed. The negative impacts associated with urbanization on the physical, chemical, and biological attributes of streams have been well documented. Impacts of urbanization on streams include changes in stream hydrology, physical alteration of the stream corridor, degradation of stream habitat, decline in water quality, and loss of aquatic diversity. There are approximately 106 miles of impaired streams within the Pennsylvania Lake Erie watershed (2014 Pennsylvania Integrated Water quality Assessment), which represents 9.46-percent of all stream miles in the watershed. Restoration is a tool that can be used to reestablish the chemical, physical, and biological components of an aquatic ecosystem that have been compromised by stressors such as point or nonpoint sources of pollution, habitat degradation, and hydro-modification. Watershed restoration can be generally defined as those activities that seek to restore healthy aquatic communities and provide clean waters for recreation, irrigation, and public consumption. Restoration should consider all sources of stress on a stream and is therefore not restricted to in-stream mitigation of impacts. Stream restoration can include an assortment of in-stream, riparian, and upland techniques used in combination to eliminate or reduce the impact of stressors on aquatic ecosystems A healthy watershed is one in which natural land cover supports dynamic hydrologic and geomorphic processes, habitat of sufficient size and connectivity supports native aquatic and riparian species, and water quality supports healthy biological communities. Healthy watersheds sustain recreational opportunities, such as fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, birding, and hunting. Susceptibility to floods, fires, and other natural disasters are minimized in healthy watersheds. Healthy watersheds can also help to assure availability of sufficient amounts of clean water for human consumption and industrial uses. Protecting watersheds prevents degradation of water quality; improves quality of life; and provides ecological, economic, recreational, and health benefits to coastal communities. Conservation is a tool that can be used to protect natural resources from future degradation. Land conservation is a tool designed to help communities protect their watersheds, recreational areas, unique and sensitive natural resources, and culturally significant sites. Land conservation is voluntary and incentives based; open space and development rights are acquired from property owners through fee simple purchase, conservation easements, and/or donations. Through these conservation techniques, natural resources are protected permanently while landowners are compensated for their properties.

News and Initiatives

  • Land Conservation in the Lake Erie Watershed The Pennsylvania Sea Grant College Program assists partnering organizations and municipalities to secure funding to carry out simple acquisition and conservation easements to preserve open space and protect environmentally sensitive areas in the Pennsylvania Lake Erie drainage basin. Since 2003, Sea Grant has assisted Lake Erie Region Conservancy (LERC), the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), municipalities, state agencies and others in conserving 1,658 acres of recreational and open space lands, which includes 8.6 miles of stream corridor and 2.60 miles of Lake Erie shoreline. These properties have a value of over $12.0 million.

  • Stream Restoration in the Lake Erie Watershed Erosion and sedimentation caused by human activities are major contributors to poor water quality in the Great Lakes. Agencies, academic institutions, and non-profits are collaborating to restore impaired stream corridors by implementing various techniques such as riparian buffer conservation, enhancing adjacent vegetation quantity and quality, reducing steep slopes, and the construction of various in-stream improvements. The purpose of these improvements is to restore the function and self-sustaining behavior of the stream system that existed prior to any disturbance.
    • Cascade Creek The Cascade Creek stream corridor has been encroached upon by urban developments for several decades. Recent years have seen renewed interest in this area and other bayfront areas for their natural beauty and the resources they provide society. Major goals in restoring Cascade Creek’s riparian zone include the reduction of erosion and improvement of wildlife habitat. Multiple complementary projects have been funded in this stream corridor in recent years to reduce sediment loading and improve habitat. All six phases of this 10-year stream restoration effort total 3,900 linear feet along Cascade Creek and its West Branch.
    • Walnut Creek The Pennsylvania Department of Protection, in collaboration with several partners, helped fund a $1.1 million stream bank improvement in the Walnut Creek watershed. The restoration provided 1,800 feet of streambank stabilization, riparian buffer enhancements, and hydraulic flow improvements to Walnut Creek. These stream improvements provide fish habitat improvements and increased public recreation opportunities. This project can be viewed from the newly created Bridger Park along Walnut Creek in Millcreek Township.
    • Sevenmile Creek Sevenmile Creek suffers from issues such as stream erosion and sedimentation. Efforts are currently underway to restore a 500 feet of Sevenmile Creek located near the Glinodo Center north of Route 5 in Harborcreek Township. The restoration of this stretch of Sevenmile Creek will improve fish habitat, water quality, and will reduce sedimentation entering the stream by 45.6 tons annually. The restoration also includes the widening and revegetation of an existing forested riparian streambank, which will provide shade for the creek, stability for streamside land, and provide vital habitats for birds, mammals, and other wildlife.


Restoration & Conservation

Title Publication Year Resource Type
PDF icon PIB Watershed Sediment Report (2012).pdf 2012 Research Reports
PDF icon PIB Watershed Assessment Summary (2002).pdf 2002 Research Reports
PDF icon Walnut Creek Watershed Plan (2008).pdf 2008 Plans Manuals
PDF icon Trout Run and Godfrey Run Plan (2010).pdf 2010 Plans Manuals
PDF icon PIB Watershed Plan (2010).pdf 2010 Plans Manuals