Sometimes we can overlook how important our local streams and wetlands are. We use them for recreational purposes such as kayaking and fishing. They can provide a community with drinking water and are an essential resource to wildlife and the environment. Although the health and quality of all watercourses (streams and wetlands) is important, some have a higher water quality standard than others.
Under Chapter 93 of the Pennsylvania Code, streams can be considered cold water fishery, CWF (streams and surrounding habitat that support cold water habitat), warm water fishery, WWF (streams and surrounding habitat that support warm water habitat), migratory fishery (streams where fish move to and from one water to another to complete their life cycle), and a trout stocked fishery-TSF. These waters can then have additional protected uses if certain criteria are met, such as water chemistry, biology, ecology, and the surrounding land use. These special protection designations are High Quality (HQ) which are considered very good and Exceptional Value (EV) which are considered the highest quality. Protection of these waters are critical, and restrictions and prevention of point and non-point source discharges should be provided. Wetlands that are connected (in or along the floodplain) to a wild trout stream are also considered EV and are protected. In addition, streams can be listed as supporting natural trout reproduction, wilderness trout, stocked trout, and class A trout under the PA Fish and Boat Commission and will also have restrictions. These restrictions include prohibiting stream work during trout stocking season (March 1st through June 15th), and wild trout spawning season (October 1st through December 31st).
Streams that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired. These impairments can be caused by point source pollution, non-point source pollution, and abandoned mine drainage (AMD). The sources of these impairments can be temperature, excess nutrients, pH, metals, siltation, chlorides, low dissolved oxygen, stormwater runoff, or suspended solids. Many streams in Jefferson County have been impacted by AMD and have many impairments that can be difficult to treat. The Jefferson County Conservation District has contributed to many AMD treatment systems over the last several decades to help improve those impaired waters. These treatment systems can be highly beneficial to reviving aquatic life and drastically improving the quality of the water and surrounding habitat. It can be expensive to develop, construct and maintain these systems, but the improvements are significant.
Care for Blair County Water. 2015. Stream Designations. http://www.cleanblairwater.org/additional-information/stream-designations/.
Chapter 93 Water Quality Standards. Title 25. Pennsylvania Code.