Among the most biologically diverse watersheds in Pennsylvania, and a federally designated National Wild and Scenic Recreation River, the Allegheny River in western Pennsylvania has been voted the 2017 Pennsylvania River of the Year. The general public was invited to vote online from Nov. 14-Dec.19, 2016 choosing from among four waterways nominated across the state. At the conclusion of the public voting campaign, the Allegheny River was the clear winner tallying 45% of the more than 16,700 total votes cast for the four finalists.
Home to an increasing bald eagle population, the Allegheny River flows more than 315 miles from its source in Potter County through the state, including a portion of the PA Wilds. With a watershed area of 11,580 square miles, it contributes 60 percent of the Ohio River flow at Pittsburgh. Eighty-six miles of the Allegheny River -- from Kinzua Dam to Emlenton -- are a federally designated National Wild and Scenic Recreation River, containing seven islands that are protected under America’s National Wilderness Preservation System.
“Every year, thousands of people paddle down this beautiful river,” Ramsey said, “and winning this designation helps us focus more attention on its history; the value of clean water; its biological diversity; the recreational opportunities it provides; and the economic value of the Allegheny River to our region. Through public educational and recreational events and projects in the coming year, we hope to increase public awareness and participation in activities which will lead to increased stewardship of our natural resources.”
As the organization that nominated the Allegheny River, Penn Soil Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, a registered 501-c-3 charitable organization serving the residents of eight northwestern PA Counties will receive a $10,000 leadership grant from the PA DCNR and the PA Organization of Watersheds and Rivers to help plan and celebrate the River of the Year celebration. DCNR and POWR will work with the Penn Soil Resource Conservation and Development Council to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the Allegheny River. Penn Soil RC&D will also coordinate with many partner organizations to manage the 2017 River of the Year celebration over a large geographic area to hold educational and recreational events connecting residents and visitors alike to the value of clean water and the resources provided by a high quality stream such as the Allegheny River.
“The River of the Year Grant we are receiving requires us to provide a local cash match to those funds and there are limitations on what the grant funds can be used for”, said Ramsey, “so we are also searching for additional partners who would be interested in co-sponsoring the River of the Year Celebration. We invite you to consider becoming a River of the Year Celebration Sponsor by reviewing the sponsorship materials displayed on our website at www.pennsoil.org . Your sponsorship benefits will apply to all River of the Year events occurring after receipt of your sponsorship commitment. At the present time, we are aware of at least six events that are already being planned and we anticipate that the number of events could possibly grow to more than 20 events that will occur starting in April and happen throughout this calendar year.”
As part of the River of the Year Celebration, Penn Soil RC&D will accept applications for Mini-Grants of up to $500 each from qualified applicants to co-sponsor River of the Year activities, events or educational programming associated with the Allegheny River that meet the criteria specified in the grant application. Penn Soil RC&D Council reserves the right to select the most appropriate applications for inclusion in the River of the Year Celebration. Penn Soil RC&D may also offer to provide additional in-kind assistance to help publicize or promote your event as part of the overall 2017 PA River of the Year Celebration, whether a grant is awarded or not.
Eligible Applicants include Conservation Districts, Municipalities, municipal agencies, pre-qualified land trusts and registered charitable organizations tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Projects eligible for the mini grant funding must meet the following criteria: The project must take place in the state of PA and provide educational, recreational, or environmental benefits focused on the Allegheny River resources. The event must be scheduled and held between the dates of May 1, 2017 and November 6, 2017. Some examples of eligible projects could include educational sojourns, paddling or float trip events, water safety programs, public access area improvements, stream cleanup projects, establishment of riparian buffers, erosion control projects, control of invasive species, fishing derbies, educational programs, water quality monitoring training, etc.
Photo caption: Penn Soil RC&D Council members met recently in Venango County to discuss plans for carrying out the 2017 PA River of the Year Celebration and created a Mini-grant and Sponsorship Program. Council members present and their County Affiliation from left to right are: Heather Wilcox (Warren), Albert “Chip” Abramovic (Venango), Donna Zofcin (Forest), Lance Bowes (Venango), Tom McClure (Erie), Jo Ann McCready (Lawrence), Jim Mondok (Mercer), Ed Atwood (Warren), Jack Preston (Crawford), Tom Schaffer (Mercer), and Wes Ramsey, Executive Director of Penn Soil RC&D)