Dec 21, 2021
KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Army Reserve soldiers spent the summer removing an earthen berm, here in Proctor along Plunketts Creek. The project will help improve conditions downstream by creating a natural flood-plain for the water to dissipate into slowly. The project was able to get off the ground with $80,000 in funding granted to the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy for a community environmental water project. The Conservancy’s executive director, Renee Carey, said that the idea of the project was by Carey Entz-Rine of the Lycoming County Conservation District.
Flood weary residents of Proctor and parts south along Plunketts and Loyalsock creeks can take heart.
Thanks to the labor of 30 soldiers with the Army Reserves’ 333rd Enginering Unit’s 1st Platoon, Plunketts Creek’s channel just south of the village of Proctor has been shifted and a flood plain has been created to help reduce the volume and to improve conditions downstream.
Soldiers spent this past summer and worked through early fall in an arduous construction project, one that will spare residents downstream heartaches.
In turn, they also improved conditions for anglers interested maintaining the health of the creek, which is a high quality cold water fishery with natural reproducing trout.
The project became a reality when the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy was granted $80,000 for a community environmental water project. The grant came from an award from a company fined for flow back of fracking water on a well pad, said Renee Carey, Conservancy executive director.
Carey credited the idea or genesis of the removal of the earthen berm along the creek to Carey Entz-Rine of the Lycoming County Conservation District.
The Department of Defense was brought in as part of its innovative readiness training and the work was supposed to begin in 2020. But the pandemic put a halt to that. Just as the Army Reserve was ready to roll that year, the project was nixed four days before the soldiers were set to arrive.
On a recent tour, two state Game Commission officials, Rodney Mee, Northcentral Region Land Manager and Mike Steingraber, Northcentral Region Information and Education supervisor, provided additional information and Carey also provided photographs of the site before the soldiers’ work and after.
The soldiers used heavy equipment to pull apart the berm and move it out of the floodplain.
Using massive heavy equipment the soldiers worked in unison, sleeping over at the existing bunk buildings that were once filled with pheasants.
“They were appreciative of the interior quarters,” Mee said.
The soldiers’ efforts resulted in the creation of a natural flood-plain for the water to dissipate into and slow the speed and volume of the channel down by having it fan outward during heavy rain.
On the Friday after the remnants of Hurricane Ida came through, Conservancy staff went to visit the creek site. The inspection would reveal what the creek did and where the creek went after the heavy rainfall.
The staff also wanted to check to see if there was any flood debris that would need to be removed, Carey said.
Along the creek was the jute mat that remained in place. The mat is a coconut fiber woven into a grid.
Inspection revealed plant material caught on the stakes that held the mat down.
But there was more positive news. Fresh sediment was seen. The flood waters also had spread out, the speed of the creek slowed and as the water slowed the sediment had a chance to settle out.
“Think about stirring powder into a glass of water,” Carey said. As the water stops twirling around, some of the powder will settle into the bottom of the glass if it is given a chance to sit,” she said.
The inspection also revealed how pieces of branches were on the ground that provided a break to the flow and allowed the water to slow down. Materials such as small stones dropped out.
When sediment drops out, erosion is reduced, if not, at places, eliminated.
As the water receded, the sediment remained and whether it is dirt or sand, it provided a base for grass and plants to grow.
Sun-Gazette staff walked along the flood-plain for more than 2,000 feet.
There was evidence of the seeds of wheat germinating and sprouting up in the mud and dirt. Much of Plunketts Creek has rocky edges, and getting plant material back along the creek is expected to provide a filter to keep sediment out of the creek. The vegetation that grows helps to slow down flood waters even more.
The site had spoil piles, large mounds of dirt that were spread out by the soldiers.
The site still shows evidence of floods in 2011 and 2016.
After the tour, Game Commission and Carey discussed how this important flood-mitigation project entailed the combined efforts of the state Fish and Boat Commission, state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife, state Council of Trout Unlimited, Loyalsock Creek Men’s Club, Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, American Legion Post 104 — Eugene Grafius, Susquehanna River Basin.
While the soldiers were at the site, they helped remove debris and opened the road to the camp at Huckle Run, which provides seasonal access to the plentiful deer herds.
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