Friday, January 21, 2011

Joy Fork Bridge Survey Postponed

Plans to replace a submarine bridge crossing Joy Fork on GoshenTWP road 197 have been delayed due to winter weather.  The Captina watershed region recorded its largest single accumulation so far this season overnight as 5-6" of light powdery snow blanketed the area.  Submarine bridges are concrete structures that span across larger streams just above normal pool elevation to allow traffic to pass.  They have built-in culverts on their undersides that, depending on the change of elevation across the span of the bridge, can serve as a barrier in the stream.  An advantage to this design is that in times of mild to moderate flooding the bridge can be completely submerged without damage. 

The Joy Fork bridge was scheduled to be surveyed by a private contractor and is being replaced by recommendation of the OEPA with assistance from US Fish and Wildlife service.  Joy Fork is a pristine side tributary to larger Bend Fork which drains areas south and east of Belmont and Bethesda, west of Centerville and Armstrongs Mills and east of Hunter and the OVCC facility.  Specifically, Joy Fork runs just west of the Dysart Woods preserve along TWP road 197 southward to the confluence with Bend Fork in what is known locally as the "Seven Creeks" area.  It meets exceptional warmwater habitat (EWH) for macroinvertebrate diversity, but not for fish diversity.  EPA biologists have observed the bridge acting as a fish barrier to species seeking occupation of habitat further upstream and believe removing the barrier will elevate the ranking of Joy Fork to EWH for fish diversity.  Project officials hope to have the bridge replaced by this summer.  Watch for updates and photos in the near future.   

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Slowly Progressing

The beginning of this winter season has been defined by persistent stretches of below average temperatures and snowfall.  Although it has been colder than normal, temperatures have not approached record lows and only have been in the single digits a couple of nights.  After a brief warmup today temperatures are going back below normal for the remainder of the week.  Wood frog (Rana sylvatica) emergence is only a little over a month away with Ambystoma salamanders arriving at pools with the first warmer rains of February.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Casey Run Logging

Those of you who drive SR 148 between Armstrongs Mills and Barnesville have probably noticed the recent timber harvest occurring at the mouth of Casey Run in extreme west-central Washington Township.  Officials from Murray Energy have commented the trees are being removed to install a utility right-of-way for the mine.  Though the right-of-way was clear-cut next to the stream, timber harvesting equipment appeared to stay out of the streambed.  A thin strip of riparian cover was also left intact on the west side of the streambank which is important to stream health because it will help regulate water temperatures in warmer months and reduce sedimentation by stabilizing the streambank. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Striped Pipsissewa

Striped Pipsissewa (Chimaphila maculata), commonly known as striped or spotted wintergreen, is one of the less frequently encountered wildflowers in the Captina watershed region but is easy to spot this time of year as long as snow depths aren't too great.  Although both share the same common name, striped wintergreen is not the same as true wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) found further south in the Carolinas.  Striped wintergreen is an evergreen perennial that prefers shady well-drained acidic, upland soils.  The most likely habitat in the Captina region to find striped wintergreen is near stands of white pine or eastern hemlock that are mixed with oak and growing on upland rocky slopes.  In the spring the plant will develop white flowers atop a 4-6" stalk.

This bunch of spotted wintergreen was found growing under a
dense stand of oak and hemlock in Sunsbury TWP, Monroe
County - note the lack of ambient light as the camera's flash had to be
used.  The plants are 4-6" in height having thicker, waxy leaves with
serrated margins.  A stem from the previous season's flowering
is still present in part on the left-most stalk.  These plants
really stand out against a snow-covered background.