Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pennsylvania - A River Runs Through It

The Little Juniata River: From 'open sewer' to Class A trout stream
The Little Juniata—or “Little J”—is a sanctuary for fly fishermen on the East Coast. Little-known to outsiders, it attracts fishermen from across the region who hope to catch brown trout in its cool waters. But just a few decades ago, fishing in the Little Juniata River seemed unthinkable. “Well, the Little Juniata River is not well-known nationally, primarily because it’s only been a trout stream since around 1975,” Anderson says. “The reason being that prior to that it was literally an open sewer.”

A long history of pollution from municipal sources, nearby tanneries and a paper mill had degraded the river into what Anderson calls a “dead stream.” And after a mysterious pollution event in 1997 destroyed much of the waterway’s aquatic insect and invertebrate population—essentially starving the brown trout—the community had had enough. “We never determined the cause. But several local people got together who loved the river and decided that wasn’t going to happen again,” says Anderson, current president of the nonprofit organization that emerged: the Little Juniata River Association (LJRA).

Restoration Spotlight: The Little Juniata from Chesapeake Bay Program on Vimeo.

From the video, I don't really get a sense for what factors they repaired that fixed the river. My own sense is that the increasing de-industrialization of the East Coast in general, and the Clean Water Act in 1972 made most of the difference. Stream bank stabilization is good, but my sense is it won't make that kind of difference. Plenty of trout and salmon out west where the rivers run muddy after a big rain.

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