2011 Update

Fall 2011 Update

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AWA Completes Watershed Assessment

With the support of more than 50 volunteers over the last two years, the AWA recently completed a comprehensive assessment of the Aquetong Creek watershed. While the Aquetong remains in good condition, the study clearly illustrates that the watershed is under stress and action is needed to protect water quality and supply into the future.

Funded by a Growing Greener grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and sponsored by the Bucks County Conservation District, AWA worked with dedicated volunteers and outside consultants to sample the watershed’s 23 stream miles. The data was compiled together with existing studies from DEP and local governments to create a comprehensive assessment.

“We studied the creek at a very fundamental level, reviewing all previous reports on the Aquetong watershed, measuring chemical and physical parameters, sampling the marine life, and evaluating riparian buffers and stream conditions,” says board president Brian Keyes, one of the AWA’s founding directors. “The study will help us set priorities for restoration and protection.”

“The good news is that the watershed is in relatively good shape,” says Keyes. “The challenge to us and future generations is to keep it clean, cold and clear. We need to restore ecologically damaged segments to preserve both the habitat and our ability to draw high-quality groundwater in a wise manner.”

Completion of the comprehensive watershed assessment enables the AWA to provide clear environmental leadership at this critical time. As always, AWA encourages all members and supporters to spread the word that everyone is directly affected by the health of the watershed.

Board members introduced and discussed the results of the comprehensive assessment at the recent AWA annual membership meeting.

“Findings are indicating that there is stress on the area’s water quality and supply that requires citizen action, education and wise policies to protect water resources,” says Les Isbrandt, AWA treasurer and past president, who has led much of the analysis of the data collected by the AWA.

“We will be meeting with local government officials and holding community briefings to help everyone understand what needs to be done to protect local water resources. We want people to know that each family, business and organization can make a huge difference to take actions that will ensure safe water quality and sufficient supplies to sustain the community,”
says Isbrandt.

For more information about the study, its conclusions and actions you can take to make a difference, go to www.aquetongwatershed.org.

AWA’s Action Agenda for Protecting the Aquetong Watershed

Based on the stream assessments and measures of stream life quality taken over the past five years, the AWA believes surface waters of the Aquetong watershed are under stress and may, in fact, be impaired.

The AWA recommends a number of action steps to ensure water quality, water quantity and to conserve, protect and preserve the watershed:

Water Quality
Develop a well testing education program and provide guidance so homeowners can have their well water tested annually to ensure its quality and safety.

Work with Solebury Township to ensure passage of the Act 537 Sewage Facilities Plan. Educate property owners with onlot septic systems on good management practices to reduce the potential for water supply contamination.

To reduce the moderate to high nitrate levels present in the surface and ground water from fertilizers, educate property owners on how to increase the use of meadows and rain gardens and apply fewer chemicals to lawns; and work with local conservation districts and the county agricultural officials to improve agricultural practices.

Water Quantity
Various studies conducted by Solebury Township have concluded that the Aquetong watershed may have a water deficit of 500,000 gallons per day in normal precipitation years, and 750,000 gallons a day in drought years. With population increases, continued exporting of wastewater outside the watershed to Lambertville, and changes in weather patterns, we could face significant challenges if we are faced with two successive drought years. The time to prepare is now.

Watershed Conservation, Protection and Preservation
To combat elevated stream temperatures during hot summer days, we need to continue to seek ways to reduce the amount of water subjected to dams, improve stormwater and impervious surface ordinances, protect riparian buffers from encroachment, encourage people to stop mowing down to the streambanks, and plant more trees.

Continued development along the Route 202 corridor threatens to create more impervious surfaces and runoff into the Aquetong Creek. We need to be more systematic in our review of proposed developments and re-zoning proposals. In addition, we need to work to improve green and low impact development practices, and create demonstration projects to protect the stream corridors.

We need to be vigilant in finding ways to protect and preserve riparian buffers, which serve a key role in protecting streams from encroachment, pollutants and excessive runoff.

The region’s infrastructure recently was severely damaged and altered by the combined impact of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. If the natural resource protections enacted in the last two decades were not in place, the impacts of these storms would be even more severe. We need to continue to work to protect and strengthen ordinances; scrutinize and challenge development that does not sufficiently protect the environment; participate in comprehensive planning conducted by the township or borough.

In addition, we will need to be diligent to encourage municipal engineers and planning commissions to maintain a holistic perspective of the watershed and the water resource safeguards as projects are reviewed for approval.

Invasive plants and deer destroy native flora and distort the ecological balance of the forests. We need a long-term and integrated program to find ways to restore the balance.

Encourage Solebury Township to diligently develop the Aquetong Lake property for the community. First, the dam and cold water by-pass issues are clear commitments and need to be implemented. Second, a park plan should be developed, shared and discussed with the community. Once a plan is approved, community support and funding need to be secured.
The AWA will meet with Solebury Township and New Hope Borough officials to share the assessment study’s findings, proposed actions, and discuss specific issues that may require additional action by the township or borough.

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Coming to an Ash Tree Near You
You may have noticed a large purple box hanging throughout Solebury and New Hope near stands of mature ash trees. This year, the USDA is arranging these traps to monitor any presence of the invasive and destructive Emerald Ash Borer.

“So far, this aggressive insect has not reached Bucks County, but when it does, it will be absolutely devastating to our ash trees,” said Jim Searing, the AWA’s Tree Strategist. Ash makes up 3.6% of the forests in Pennsylvania, with more than 300 million trees throughout the state. “We estimate that as much as 8% of the tree population of Solebury and New Hope consists of ash trees,” noted Jim.

The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) was discovered in southeast Michigan in 2002. Native to Asia, this species is responsible for the destruction of millions of ash trees in the Midwest, and has been spotted in Fairfax, Virginia; Duchess County NY, and as far east as Mifflin and Juniata Counties in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, this borer is known to kill virtually every mature ash tree when it moves into an area. Arborists can treat individual or significant trees; however, all ash trees are at risk.

How would we know if the borer is here? In addition to the USDA monitoring boxes, key indicators include dieback of the branches, slits in the bark, D-shaped exit holes through the bark, and extensive woodpecker damage.

What can you do to prevent the advance of the emerald ash borer? The number one preventative measure is ‘don’t move firewood.’ Buy your firewood locally and ask where it comes from. Since the borers can move only five to 10 miles a year by themselves, their ability to ‘hitchhike’ in infected wood becomes their most effective way to enter a new area.

What else can be done to stop the spread of these borers? The USDA is experimenting by releasing a tiny non-stinging wasp that kills emerald ash borers. They are also storing seeds to create a new generation of ash trees.

There are treatment options, and if you have a specimen or historic tree on your property, consider consulting with an arborist regarding treatment options.

More information on the ash borer is available from the PA Department of Conservation of Natural Resources at the state’s website.

An ash tree identification guide can be downloaded as a PDF by visiting http://www.aquetongwatershed.org/pdf/ashtreeid.pdf.