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Dirt and gravel roads impact stream health

By Staff | May 18, 2016

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Matthew Johnson (left) technician from the Lycoming County Conservation District and who lives in Moreland Township, was welcomed as a presenter on the impact of the area's dirt and gravel roads by Chalmer Van Horn, Vice-President of the Muncy Creek Watershed Association during their meeting last month at the Hughesville Public Library.

HUGHESVILLE – Last month when the Muncy Creek Watershed Association met at the Hughesville Public Library, members learned how important the dirt and gravel roads in rural areas are to the maintenance and health of the streams.

Matthew Johnson, an administrative technician from the Lycoming County Conservation District gave an overview on some of the projects that have been established within the immediate area.

Chalmer VanHorn Vice-President for the association introduced Johnson who described sediment as being the number one problem in the Muncy Watershed that covers 205 square miles. The Conservation District which is over 60 years old has been partnering with the Muncy Creek Watershed to prevent erosion and sedimentation. “The back alleys are in this category,” reported Johnson who is also a Moreland Township resident where he has experienced some of these issues. There are 46 miles of dirt and gravel roads just in Moreland Township according to Johnson.

The program with the Conservation District in the county was started in 1997 to address trout populations in the streams. “Now our overall goal is to reduce runoff and sediment pollution that comes from rural roads,” Johnson explained. There are long term solutions he said that are sustainable over time. “Drainage is a main goal to control sediment loads in ditch lines,” he said.

Initially Lycoming County had budgeted $80,000 a year for the projects, but are now up to $425,000, and Johnson stated that low volume roads and stream crossing structures up to 25 feet in the area are now eligible for funding. “We are now doing entire roads,” he added.

The above photo shows how a boxed culvert was built in Moreland Township on W. Arch Rider Road to handle the water flow around the drain.

One of the areas addressed is in Franklin Township on Sulky Road where there is an issue with road surface and ditch lines. The job was completed in October 2014. “The road was resurfaced and top-sized with stone.” A new drain was also placed. “Clay is the worst product to have on the road,” added Johnson, “because it creates pot holes, especially when wet.”

East Sones Road, another project, was set with shale to level it more and was completed in August 2015.

Moreland Township has roads that are constantly wet such as W. Arch Rider Road. “It would flood a lot and so a 54 inch pipe was added that was 14×47 feet wide. “The structure was made to handle the water flow around the drain. A concrete box culvert was then added at a cost of $35,000. “This is a cost effective structure,” Johnson said.

Log vanes were added on Laidecker Road in February 2016 which cost $5,000 to fix, and an infiltration drain with a riser pipe was added on Stan Warn Road. “This is a good way to slow the water down, and a great improvement,” Johnson said as he showed slides to the members.

The driving surface to Mill Creek Township’s Tallow Bottom Road used aggregate and required very little preparation. “It almost sets like concrete and helps with the sediment in Carpenter’s Run.”

There are projects contracted for 2016 which includes Laurel Run Road on Rt. 442 on German Road. Green Street in Muncy is also being looked and $350,000 was spent over the last two years in Moreland, Franklin and Jordan Townships.

To address road issues, it is important to remain in touch with local municipalities and township supervisors. “You can also contact the Conservation District with possible projects and any issues with storm water,” informed Johnson. “Boroughs are eligible too. Each project is handled independently and reviewed separately to see if it is eligible for some funding.”

Other resources come from the PA Fish and Boat Commission, NRCS, and Trout Unlimited. Road surface quality and water quality is based on a point system using a score sheet to rank the roads and the different criteria. “Each road project is ranked to be funded. Go where the worst roads are,” concluded Johnson.

Much of the funding does come from the state’s Transportation Bill Act 89.