Trout Unlimited keeps eye on shale gas drilling impact

By Gary R. Blockus Of The Morning Call Find out how TU monitors Marcellus Shale drilling impact Michaels Creek and MartinsCreek in the Poconos are about to get some very important oversight. Trained members of the Brodhead Chapter of Trout Unlimited will begin monitoring a variety of data in those streams and turn the results over to the Pennsylvania Council of TU. The council will include the information in a national database to keep track of the shale gas drilling industry's potential impact on streams. The work is part of the Pennsylvania TU Coldwater Conservation Corps, and the Brodhead Chapter is ready to collect the data and put eyes on the streams, according to Ann Foster, a board member of the Brodhead TU chapter who is the coordinator for the chapter's CCC efforts. Foster explained the CCC project to about 80 attendees at the 13th annual Spring Event conducted by the Forks of the Delaware, Hokendauqua, Little Lehigh and Monocacy chapters of TU on Saturday. The focus of the event — this one taking place at East Bath Rod and Gun Club — is basically a pep rally for the upcoming trout season, which begins April 4. (Mentored Youth Fishing takes place March 28.) Will Daskal, former owner of a fly fishing school in New York (and also a Brodhead TU member) gave a presentation on fishing the Beaver Kill River and tributary Willowemoc Creek in New York. The Beaver Kill is a tributary of the Delaware River. Foster, however, made a plea to the local chapters to get involved with the CCC, noting the network of stream stewards has already discussed the possibility of testing streams that may cross the proposed PennEast natural gas pipeline that would run from near Wilkes-Barre through the Lehigh Valley and on to the Trenton, N.J., area. "Right now, that's not official, but there is potential to expand from collecting data on streams to those that will cross gas pipelines," Foster said in an interview following her presentation. The Coldwater Conservation Network is a group of volunteers trained in stream inspection who can identify problems and report them to appropriate agencies. The Pennsylvania TU CCC has trained 477 volunteers and is focusing on watersheds where shale gas drilling is occurring or being planned. The next volunteer training session is scheduled for May 16 at the Kidder Township Building, Lake Harmony, and will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Training includes learning to use a field manual and other resources developed by TU and PATU, along with resources developed for Aquatic Resource Monitoring of Dickinson College. Volunteers will learn how to use monitoring equipment. Potential major environmental problems associated with the extraction of shale gas include land disturbances, water withdrawals from local watersheds, spills, discharges, gas and leakage. "Approximately three or four years ago, TU began this program of water quality testing through trained volunteers in the Marcellus Shale drilling areas to keep an eye on these projects," Foster said. TU chapters throughout the state participate in the CCC testing and observation on weekly, bi-weekly and monthly frequencies, testing for things like conductivity, total dissolved solids, pH, air and water temperature, turbidity and other factors. The results of these tests are entered into a national database of potential negative environmental impacts on water quality. "We talk about all these parameters that we measure," Foster said, "but the most important thing is visual reconnaissance, having someone out there at stream-side looking for changes and proper maintenance to prevent contamination of a stream, looking for best-management practices or the failure of them." Foster said the information and data gathering usually take no more than an hour at a time, and that volunteers doing so are free to fish afterward, but it's not a good idea to fish and test at the same time. To find out more about becoming a CCC volunteer or the training, contact Jake Lemon, the eastern shale gas monitoring coordinator for Trout Unlimited at, or by calling 814-779-3965. Information is also available online at


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