People encouraged to get involved via feedback, resouces as we gear up for a full slate scheduled in 2024
A year ago, I shared a column about water testing in which I shared a story about a young boy drinking a glass of water from a tap moments before I collected a residential well sample.
Shortly after, the results showed the treatment system in the family's basement wasn't working, that a variety of contaminants were streaming through the water in the home.
While we were able to fix the problem, the column suggested that among our goals for 2023 would be an emphasis on water sampling. While that has been the case -- in fact, I am working on some concerning numbers from the lab right now involving samples taken a few weeks ago -- I'd love to see a much more sampling (residential, surface water and beyond) as we head into yet another new year soon.
The reality is that water sampling is expensive, especially when factoring in panels of some of the newer emerging contaminants (microplastics, PFAS, etc.). This is just one of many hurdles we face as we strive to protect and promote the health and vibrancy of the Susquehanna River, its tributaries and the aquatic ecosystem that depends on these resources across an 11,000 square-mile watershed.
Riverkeeper note: The following is a press release from the Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance. We will be following up with more info on this update soon, including ways people can get involved with the important work being done by the SCRA.
Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance (SCRA) has received notification of a grant selection by the Biden-Harris Administration through the US Environmental Protection Agency. These grants address environmental justice projects across Pennsylvania as part of the Investing in America Agenda. SCRA served as the grant applicant; partners are FAR Better Together and Shamokin Community Gardens and Pocket Parks. The maximum award of $500,000 was requested and granted. The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) program intentionally targeted small, non-profit organizations that historically struggle to receive federal funding.
The local award will establish a brick-and-mortar presence in the Shamokin Area and provide a full-time community coordinator position. Area non-profits will be invited to participate in the pooling of resources, volunteers, and services.
Citing the pre-pandemic town hall meeting held in February 2020, organizers recognized the need for grass roots revitalization efforts in the community. As a result, several groups were formed with the goal of improving life in the greater Shamokin area.
Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper is hiring two new positions: Assistant Director & Vernal School Supervisor
The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association (MSRKA), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization headquartered in Sunbury, PA, tasked with protecting and promoting the health and vibrancy of the Susquehanna River, its tributaries and clean water resources across an 11,000-square-mile watershed is looking for applicants for two new full-time positions.
One will be an assistant director/deputy riverkeeper to work directly with current Executive Director/Riverkeeper John Zaktansky in expanding the association's efforts to better protect clean water resources and engage/educate/empower individuals, groups and communities across the greater watershed to make realistic, long-standing improvements.
The other will be to help oversee and coordinate environmental education programs via the new Vernal School Environmental Education Partnership connected to the Montour Preserve in coordination with the MSRKA and more than 20 other local community partners.
Column: Partnership can foster new opportunities at Montour Preserve for those willing to get creative
One sunny yet blustery early spring day I remember hiking with my Scout troop from a public camping site along a trail toward the Montour Preserve.
A few spring flowers had attempted to push through the late-winter undergrowth, skunk cabbage did its best to break up the dull grays and dead-leaf browns, but really there was little to catch our attention until we stumbled across a small dip in the ground filled with water that was literally vibrating with life.
Vernal pools, we learned later that day from naturalist Jon Beam, are unique because compared to the cold, unforgiving environment around them, they are shallow enough to be warmed by the sun above streaming down through a canopy that has yet to gain its leaves. Vernal pools lack natural predators and they offer plenty of leaf litter for shelter and camouflage.
In conjunction with numerous local and statewide partners committed to assisting with environmental education, the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association (MSRKA) has formed an Environmental Education Partnership it is calling a “Vernal School” as a way to support the Montour Area Recreation Commission’s (MARC) work at the Montour Preserve.
The Partnership, backed by a $300,000 grant by the 1994 Charles B. Degenstein Foundation, will offer enhanced nature and STEM programming year-round to all ages and skill levels and is one of two new lifelines for MARC, which earlier this summer announced it may need to file a one-year notice at the preserve due to lack of financial resources.
500-plus learn about river on 2023 Floating Classrooms. Fill out 2024 feedback form for chance to win
More than 500 combined people attended nine Floating Classrooms aboard the Hiawatha Paddleboat in Williamsport on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River with the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association in 2023.
The programs began with a cruise on June 13 focused on the rocks and geology of the river basin. It included a presentation by Central PA Rocks and Mineral Club President Andrew “Rockhound” Eppig on various types of rocks you can find in the watershed and another by Brittany Martin on the history of the river’s geology and how it has impacted the Susquehanna’s flow.
“I had the best classroom to teach geology to on this beautiful day,” said Martin afterward on her Facebook page. “Andrew Rockhound and I taught geology of the Susquehanna River to an amazing group of people of all ages on the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat in Williamsport, PA!! So much fun!!!!!”
Final Floating Classroom of 2023 focuses on Raptors of the River as preparations begin for 2024 season
Sixty people joined the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association on Oct. 3, 2023, for its final Floating Classroom program of the season for an overview of Raptors of the River.
The lower level presentation was led by regional Department of Environmental Protection's Megan Lehman as she discussed the Peregrine Falcon and its nest at the agency's Harrisburg headquarters and how the species as a whole has bounced back from near extinction due to DDT poisoning.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is kicking off a series of meetings beginning this week to gather input from the public on the interim environmental justice policy adopted by the agency on Sept. 16.
The series of meetings are set to begin on Wednesday evening with the first one being a virtual-only event.
The 27-page policy outlines DEP’s approach to connecting with Pennsylvanians living in environmental justice communities — those disproportionately affected by factors such as poor air quality, old housing and infrastructure, and limited transportation — and explains how the agency will handle environmental compliance and enforcement efforts in these areas.
Ticks, tick-borne illnesses on rise as people urged to take precautions when headed outdoors this fall
Ticks have a tiny yet tenacious hook on the end of each leg, especially their forelegs, with which they are extremely good at latching onto things and not letting go, according to Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) tick specialist Christian Boyer.
“Questing is the action where they come to the edge of vegetation and when a host comes by, they’ll put their arms in the air and grab hold,” he said. “If there is a change in temperature – a shadow casts over them – they will stretch out their arms when they sense a host and grab a hold and find a place to attach.”
The process, therefore, is very similar to writing a compelling story. The first paragraph, the very tip of the material that will come in contact with a reader – the potential host – is called a lede and within that you want a good hook.
Programs geared toward inspiring next generation of stewards: EELS workshop seeks student applicants
While other kids raced to claim their favorite kayaks, paddles and life jackets before the others, Ramona Kroll walked slowly and deliberately along the edge of the lake at the Central PA Wesleyan Campground near New Columbia during the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association’s HERYN (Helping Engage our River’s Youth with Nature) kayak and fishing day programs.
Then, quickly, she darted down and scooped up a small frog before it could jump into the water.
Through three summers, we have served hundreds of kids at our HERYN program, and each one brings different interests, skills, personality, and, for some, even emotional baggage.
But, for Ramona, the unique perspective she added to this year’s program was her keen fascination for everything reptile and amphibian. From the snakes on the T-shirt she wore to early morning registration to her specialized radar for finding these species at the campground that day, it was a cool experience.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.