Susan Beecher, a well-respected guardian of Pike County’s natural resources will retire from her post as executive director of the Pike County Conservation District (PCCD) on December 31, concluding 23 years of service. The news was announced at the monthly meeting of the PCCD Board of Directors on August 20.
In a discussion that was typical of many others in which Beecher has worked to protect the County’s high quality water, forests and land, concerns were expressed about possible impacts to a “premiere Pike County trout stream,” where the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) Northeast Upgrade Project (NEUP) would cross Cummins Creek in an area described as a beautiful forested gorge with very steep slopes.
“One of the streams that we’re very very concerned about with the TGP NEUP project is Cummins Creek,” said Beecher, who estimated that the banks at the proposed site are at approximately 80% slopes. “That’s one of the places that they’re proposing additional temporary work space, so the right of way will be even wider,” she noted.
For perspective, Beecher cited an example from TGP’s 300 Line Project. “The tree clearing that took place at the Lackawaxen River was about 300’ at a 45% slope. Imagine slopes twice that steep with the same level of tree removal,” she said.
PCCD staff and volunteers have been actively involved in water quality monitoring initiatives and have added additional sites this year. “Cummins Creek had some of the highest numbers of trout that we found in the county,” she said of the creek which bears a High Quality designation from the PA Department of Environmental Protection. “We’re very concerned about the impact of this pipeline on that and some of the other streams.”
PCCD is also completing its second technical review of the proposed pipeline project. While Beecher noted that staff is still processing the extensive comments, she expressed her disappointment that some of PCCD’s requests about minimizing impacts to the riparian buffers and mitigating some of those impacts by planting trees in the stream corridors did not bring about a greater response.
Pike County Commissioner Richard Caridi noted that in New Jersey, TGP has agreed to do more extensive replanting. “If it’s good enough for New Jersey, why isn’t it good enough for PA?” he asked.
Beecher said she had looked at the reforestation plan for New Jersey. “It’s the same project, the same loop, just a different state,” she said. “There’s a reforestation plan that has TGP not only documenting what trees are there pre-construction that will be impacted by the pipeline, but they also have a suite of native trees and shrubs that will be planted after the project.
“My concern is in those areas in the riparian corridors where they’re taking additional temporary workspace. Sometimes those areas are pretty extensive and I think they should be replanted. They’re doing that in New Jersey; I don’t know why they can’t do it here, particularly in the special protection watersheds.” Beecher cited differences in state requirements and project costs as two possible reasons for this.
Beecher added that she thinks Pennsylvania can use its anti-degradation requirements as a means to mitigate the forest losses in riparian corridors.
“I’ve been encouraging TGP to come up with a revegetation plan. They plant grass, but that’s not mitigating all of the habitat and shade and aquatic resource impacts like planting trees would. I think in order to meet the anti-degradation requirements, they’ve got to show that they’re not changing the physical, biological or chemical character of those stream corridors and removing trees in 100-foot swaths on steep slopes along wild trout streams, I think, is changing the physical, biological and chemical character of the streams.”