Espy Run Stream Restoration

Segment A of the Espy Run Stream Restoration, looking towards Bliss Bank and Wilkes-Barre Mountain.

In 2001, funded by a PADEP Growing Greener grant awarded to EC, Dr. Kenneth Klemow of Wilkes University performed a one-year assessment of the topography, water quality, and biological health of all the waterways within the Nanticoke Creek watershed.  He found one of the most severely impacted waterways was Espy Run, a tributary to the Nanticoke Creek.  The stream disappeared underground upon encountering Bliss Bank – over 200 acres of legacy minelands that had been deep-mined, strip-mined, and then used as a spoils dump.  When Espy Run did resurface, it had little to no flow, AMD contamination, and poor vegetative and biological health.

These findings led to a larger initiative on which EC partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), PADEP, and PADEP’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation to develop a plan for comprehensive restoration of the Nanticoke Creek watershed.  The result was Section 206 – Ecosystem Restoration:  Nanticoke Creek Watershed, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Detailed Project Report and Integrated Environmental Assessment (2005).

USACE concurred with Klemow’s analysis, warning of a “complete loss of the stream ecosystem” and significant contamination of water quality due to mining-related impairments.  To mitigate the damage, USACE recommended reclamation of mine-scarred areas and reconstruction of waterways.  These activities would aid recovery of the watershed by 1.) abating sediment and AMD loads; 2.) restoring natural habitat; 3.) improving public safety; and 4.) reclaiming land for productive use, including recreation.

The Espy Run Stream Restoration is one step in this process.  Reconstructing the missing segment will prevent the stream’s headwaters from infiltrating underground into the mine pools, which USACE believes will reduce AMD discharges downstream.  Furthermore, a riparian forest buffer is planned for the majority of the new channel, improving habitat and creating a wildlife corridor to the top of Wilkes-Barre Mountain.  Currently, 3,750 feet of stream is funded, with support coming from USEPA’s Brownfields Cleanup Program, PADEP’s Growing Greener Program, and PADEP’s AML Pilot Program.  A grant for the riparian buffer was awarded by PEC’s Pocono Forests and Waters Conservation Landscape mini-grant program, through the PADCNR C2P2 Environmental Stewardship Fund.  Work began on the first 1,000’ of channel (Segment A) in 2019.

Espy Run – Segment A:  Pre-Construction

View of Espy Run, prior to stream reconstruction.  As shown, stream is narrow and overgrown, and flow is sporadic.

Espy Run – Segment A:  Pre-Construction

Another view of the channel, near Espy Street.

Espy Run – Segment A:  Construction

After clearing and grubbing, equipment is mobilized.  Wooden planking was required due to the wet soil.

Espy Run – Segment A:  Construction

Excavation of the channel.

Espy Run – Segment A:  Post-Construction

Completed segment of stream channel, with liner and rip-rap.  Channel has been expanded to approximately 12′.  This segment, which is alongside a wetlands, was designed with a shallow depth to maintain ecological functioning of the area.

Espy Run – Segment A: Post-Construction

View of channel looking towards Espy Street.