The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced that it will invest $13 million in 73 watershed protection projects.
57 projects will be funded through the state's Growing Greener program, while an additional 16 will be supported by the federal government through a Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Grant and the Clean Water Act.
The largest award in Western Pennsylvania, $528,616, goes to the Clearfield Creek Watershed Association to help clean up the area's water. The Clearfield Creek Watershed has been plagued with environmental problems associated with acid mine drainage.
Earl Smithmyer is the director of the Watershed Association. He said their volunteer group hopes to clean up the water for wildlife as well as people.
"If aquatic life can live in it, microinvertebrates and that, then fish will live in it," said Smithmyer. "And that's our goal, is to get these streams, especially the Clearfield Creek, where it will be fishable. And if it's fishable, the water's pretty decent."
Smithmyer said they also work to educate about the effects of pollution. "The fish commission gives these schools fish eggs and they hatch them. These kids get to raise them up until they're little fingerlings," said Smithmyer. "We go with them whenever they stock them and we stock them in a creek where the water is good. And then, we take them to see some of these sites where the water is bad and we explain to them why they can't put fish in there. Or maybe they will take water back and put a little fish in it and it dies right away."
He said the association has already re-vegetated 12 acres of the previously barren land and they hope to see more money invested water clean-up in the future.
Other large watershed grants were awarded to the Borough of Crafton for its Clearview Avenue Drainage Project ($298,704) and the South Fayette Conservation Group for Fishing Run Stream ($259,495).