Conewango Creek Watershed Association to Receive $10,000 Leadership Grant
Photo by Kirk Johnson, board member for the Conewango Creek Watershed Association
Harrisburg – Rich in aquatic life and home to at least two rare fish species, the Conewango Creek in northwestern Pennsylvania has been voted the 2015 Pennsylvania River of the Year.
The general public was invited to vote online for the designation from Nov. 10-Dec. 15, choosing from among five waterways nominated across the state.
A total of 9,959 one-time votes were cast by email. Final tallies showed the Conewango Creek receiving 4,154 votes, or 42 percent; Loyalhanna Creek: 2,981, 30 percent; Lackawanna River: 1,469, 15 percent; Neshaminy Creek and watershed: 881, 9 percent; and Ohio River: 474, 5 percent.
“There are winning qualities in all five of these waterways that their supporters recognize and respect,” DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti said. “The number of waterways nominated, coupled with a vote tally that increases every year, showcases both the unique diversity of Pennsylvania’s rivers and the strong community allegiances that protect and enhance them.”
The applicant for the winning waterway, the Conewango Creek Watershed Association, will receive a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund River of the Year activities.
“We want to thank everyone — all the businesses, organizations, media and individuals — that made this possible,” Conewango Creek Watershed Association Chairman Steve Kimball said. “Just promoting Conewango Creek for 2015 Pa. River of the Year has brought a lot of awareness of the creek locally and regionally. The creek is now ‘on the radar’ for many people that never really thought much about it before.
“Getting the award and the grant will allow us to take advantage of the awareness we have started to raise and ‘ride that wave’ while it’s fresh in people’s minds. We have a fantastic resource right here in our own backyard and we want people to cherish, improve and protect it. We want to get more of the community involved and take ownership of the creek,” Kimball said.
The association will integrate “the River of the Year message” in a river sojourn focusing on the watershed’s history, wildlife, local fisheries and related topics, according to board member Elizabeth Dropp. Other creek-based activities may include a poker run, special fall celebration, cleanup, photo contest and public water safety courses. The association also is exploring the possibility of starting a pilot “stream ambassador” program, Dropp said.
In cooperation with DCNR, selection of public voting choices was overseen by the Pa. Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR), an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. POWR and DCNR will work with the association to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating Conewango Creek as the 2015 Pa. River of the Year
A tributary of the Allegheny River, Conewango Creek flows 71 miles through northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York and is part of a 900-square-mile-area drainage basin. Though challenged by sediment pollution in some areas, the Conewango’s water quality sustains two rare fish species — the burbot, once thought to be eradicated, and the paddlefish, which was reintroduced to the area. The waterway also is home 19 native, freshwater mussel species, and boasts a biodiversity rich in river otters, bald eagles, ospreys, herons and other wildlife.
The Conewango Creek is a designated Pa. Water Trail, with six launch areas along its 13 miles flowing through Pennsylvania.
“POWR would like to commend everyone across the Commonwealth for their support for the nominated rivers, especially for the efforts and strong showing of support for the Conewango Creek,” POWR Vice President Janet Sweeney said. “The River of the Year program is a wonderful opportunity to showcase all of the nominated rivers and the great work being done in Pennsylvania communities on these valuable resources. We are excited about this opportunity to promote the successes and challenges facing the Conewango Creek, as well as all of Pennsylvania’s waterways.”
Presented annually since 1983, the 2014 designation was awarded to the Schuylkill River in eastern Pennsylvania. Each year, finalists are determined based on each waterway’s conservation needs and successes, as well as celebration plans should the nominee be voted River of the Year.
The River of the Year sojourn is just one of many paddling trips supported by DCNR and POWR each year. An independent program, the Pennsylvania Sojourn Program, is a unique series of a dozen such trips on the state’s rivers. For more information about the sojourns, visit www.pawatersheds.org.
To learn more about the River of the Year program, the nominated waterways and past winners, visit www.pariveroftheyear.org. To learn more about DCNR’s Rivers Program, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us (click on “Conserve,” then “Waterways”).
Terry Brady, DCNR, 717-772-9101
Janet Sweeney, POWR, 570-718-6507