The Schuylkill Action Network announced more than $300,000 in grants to nine projects improving water quality in the Schuylkill River Watershed of Philadelphia, Chester, Montgomery and Berks counties.

The projects included conservation easement for the Olivet Blue Mountain Camp, miles away from the river to runoff mitigation on farms and parking lots much closer to the waterway that is the drinking water source for almost 2 million people.

The grants were announced recently as part of a virtual tour showcasing grant recipients from 2019 and 2018, including properties in Schuylkill, Berks and Montgomery counties.

For 2020, the group awarded $307,695 to Berks Nature, Berks County Conservation District, Charlestown Play House, Lower Frederick Township and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education for nine projects that will improve water quality in the Schuylkill River. For the past 15 years, the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund has supported more than 120 projects for the conservation and preservation of the Schuylkill River. Ninety have been completed.

The projects are funded by partners: Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area, Schuylkill Action Network, Exelon Generation, Delaware River Basin Commission, Philadelphia Water Department and Aqua Pennsylvania.

• The Berks Conservation District received $113,045 for two projects around Irish Creek watershed in Centre Township. The District will implement a $61,625 project at the dairy operation owned and operated by the Grube family. The goal is to reduce nutrient, sediment, and pathogen pollution to Irish Creek and Schuylkill River watershed.

• At Irish Creek Stables, a beef and equine board operation in Mohrsville, the district will also implement a $51,420 agriculture best management practice project to reduce nutrient, sediment and pathogen runoff. The project is situated between two previous agriculture projects, and includes over a mile of continuous new riparian forest buffer.

Riparian buffers are vegetated areas along stream banks. They provide habitat for insects, amphibians and wildlife. Riparian areas store water in high flow times and release during low flow times. They also dissipate water energy during floods.

• Berks Nature received $108,000 for two farm projects and two conservation easements. The $30,000 project at the Gauker Farm in Richmond Township will include manure storage, roofed heavy use area and stormwater controls. The Kunkel Farm, just over the Berks County border in Lynn Township, Lehigh County, will install agricultural best management practices for stormwater, including a manure storage facility and stream crossing. The grant is for $70,000.

• A $4,000 grant will help permanently protect an important forest of 109 acres of the Olivet Blue Mountain Camp property in Hamburg and Windsor Township. This forested region in northern Berks is in the Kittatinny Ridge.

• Berks Nature also received $4,000 toward a conservation easement on the 70-acre Smith property in District Township that will protect the headwaters of the Perkiomen Creek Watershed from development.

• The Charlestown Play House, a preschool in Phoenixville, Chester County, will receive $50,000 to protect the Pickering Creek by fixing its gravel parking lot. Stormwater erodes the gravel parking lot, flows across a road and into a Pickering Creek tributary. The project will construct bioretention areas with amended soils, native vegetation and additional drainage to reduce runoff and velocity, improve water quality and enhance habitat value while increasing educational opportunities at the nonprofit preschool.

• Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia received $35,000 for a stormwater project to address issues affecting Smiths Run, a first order tributary on the property of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

• Lower Frederick Township in Montgomery County received $1,650 for land acquisition and conservation easement to conserve a critical portion of an existing 5 acre parcel known as the Reynolds/Cabin Craft property through the use of both subdivision and conservation easement measures. Included within the conservation easement agreement will be a recorded public trail easement.

The virtual event gave tours of recent restoration projects, including one improving the Tulpehocken Creek, another impacting the Kernsville Dam and Lafayette Street restoration in Norristown.

Tulpehocken Creek project

The Tulpehocken Creek restoration project at the Zartman farm was decades in the making, said Berks Conservation District's Kent Himmelright. The restoration has brought back a lively trout population, he said.

The Tulpehocken Creek Restoration video can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jys71IcoyNU

Porter property reclamation

Ken Porter talked about coal silt reclamation project that impacts the Kernsville Dam and will restore a bridge connecting two pieces of Schuylkill River Trail.

"For me, believe it or not, it's a re-connection to my father and his generation," Porter said in the video. "They instilled upon me the beauty of Schuylkill County."

The Porter Reclamation video can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpOW1yUUo5s

Lafayette Street project in Norristown

The linear park looks deceptively beautiful. It was not a mere beautification project, said Crystal Gilchrist of Montgomery County Planning Commission. It took time and cooperation of several agencies, including the relocation of the Schuylkill River Trail. The project was divided in to pieces to complete. It led to a new Wawa in the area, and property values are staring to increase as result, Gilchrist said.

"It was an exciting project to watch happen," Gilchrist said. "The whole three sections of it took about eight years to complete over all."

It has really changed the character of that area of Norristown, she added.

The video can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUZPcUUATG

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