State Decides on Bottling and Dredging

Rare mussels and spring water have stirred controversy in recent weeks. Two state agencies have reached decisions that will impact the future of both. The Allegheny Front's Deborah Weisberg has been following these stories and has this update.

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Rare mussels and spring water have stirred controversy in recent weeks. Two state agencies have reached decisions that will impact the future of both. The Allegheny Front's Deborah Weisberg has been following these stories and has this update.

Weisberg: The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has denied Jack Beals a permit to remove spring water to bottle from Schaeffer Run, which is within the Laurel Hill Creek watershed in Somerset County. There's been an alarming loss of both surface and groundwater in that watershed in recent decades, given withdrawals by two ski resorts, a state prison and increasing development. But while environmentalists applaud DEP's decision, they worry about future permit applications by Marcellus shale drillers. Krissy Kasserman is with the Mountain Watershed Association.

Kasserman: We'll continue to monitor development, especially Marcellus shale drilling.

Weisberg: And the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has come to terms with sand and gravel dredgers on the Allegheny River. The commission will require dredgers to do more sampling where they find rare mussels, including the salamander mussel. If there are enough mussels in the area, dredgers either have to avoid the area or relocate the mussels. Fish commission environmental director John Arway explains.

Arway: If they find 6 or more they avoid the area. They can't dredge there, but they can open a dialogue about dredging the area next to it as long as they can assure there's no impact. Five or fewer, they can relocate to a refuge area near Murphy's Island.

Weisberg: Arway called the plan less than ideal, but said some sort of compromise was necessary. For the Allegheny Front, I'm Deborah Weisberg.