Cleaning up for trout - Maryland
In The News
Cleaning up for trout - Maryland
Michael A. Sawyers
BARTON - The lush summer foliage alongside Westernport Road obscures the fact that beneath it flows a nasty, orange rivulet called Aaron Run, formerly a brook trout stream and now a channel for acid mine drainage.
You can't see Aaron Run from the road, but if you stop your vehicle, shut off the engine and the wind isn't blowing too hard you can hear its trickle. Listen a little more closely and off in the distance you will perceive the clank and whir of heavy equipment.
The Maryland Bureau of Mines is attempting to reverse in about one year the destruction to Aaron Run from five decades of acid mine drainage in Garrett County.
Mines spokeswoman Connie Lyons Loucke is confident. "We've proven we can bring fish back", she said recently.
It will be a multifaceted effort, according to Joe Mills, including leach beds, lime dosers and something called SAP cells (successive alkaline producing cells), all of which will move the water's pH in the correct direction.
The purpose is to clean Aaron Run enough so that native brook trout can be reintroduced.
Mills says the work being done by Consolidated Construction and Engineering Inc. of Laurel isn't all that much different than a Michelangelo effort.
Michelangelo would have a block of granite and everybody would look at it and say "that's a block of granite," Mills said Tuesday. "Then he would remove a little chip here and a larger chip there and somewhere down the line a beautiful sculpture would emerge. A chip here. A chip there."
The renovation of Aaron Run will take place by way of alkalinity being added and bad stuff like metals being removed. Mills likes to call each effort a goose.
"We'll goose it up a little in one place and we'll goose it up a lot in another place," Mills said. "A goose here. A goose there. You can't have too much alkalinity."
Phase one is under way. Hidden from Westernport Road by the greenery, heavy equipment is digging a massive hole for a rain garden, where various layers of stone, earth and plants will filter the kind of bad stuff that turns Aaron Run orange. The Laurel firm got the work after bidding $394,500.
Another phase of the project, a little farther upstream, will begin in a month or two, and the final phase, the one at the most upstream location, is slated for a spring effort.
Once done, the plan is to have the remaining four miles of Aaron Run flow clean and clear past aquatic insects and brook trout before it empties into the Savage River not far upstream from Bloomington.
The whole job will cost about $1.2 million and is funded from a variety of federal and state sources. The stream flows on private lands owned by Walter Wassel, Rod and Charlee Owens, and the Moran Coal Co.
Alan Heft, a fishery biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said earlier this year that once water quality improves, crews will capture native brook trout in the lower Savage River and transplant them to Aaron Run. "That way we will be assured that the same, original genetic strain is being used," Heft said.
Aaron Run is one of 10 waters being restored via the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, produced by an assembly of the nation's leading authorities on aquatic conservation.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at email@example.com