Privateering the Uncharted Waters

 

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I managed to start a new project just this morning though I’ve been thinking it over and acquiring my gear for a while.

I’ve spent many hours over the last couple of years wading around in the upper reaches of Pine Creek here near my Pittsburgh home and I’ve seen great potential in the various headwater streams though I catch only creek chub, and rarely anything else. I’ve wondered about the lack of diversity in the main stem of Pine Creek and have wanted to look at some of the fundamentals, namely: pH, alkalinity, temperature and also, chloride.

The last of these isn’t always a stream fundamental but I’ve been suspicious that this may be the greatest limiting factor for life forms that want to subsist in Pine Creek. Chloride mainly comes from road salt and plenty of roads cross this flowage. Plenty of parking lots adjacent as well – acres of asphalt, in fact.

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I’ve held out more hope for two tiny tributary streams though. I don’t know that they’re hopelessly poisoned by chloride and they sometimes look like they may be attractive to trout. They get enough spring water all year round; I can tell by the fact that water’s still flowing in the driest weeks of the year. And there’s just something very attractive about imagining that these tiny neighborhood flows could again become homes to wild trout and that I could have something to do with that.

To this end, I carried a bucket full of sample viles and my thermometer down to Pine Creek this morning. It was warm for January and foggy. This being a weekend, few humans were on the move at this hour – a fine day to be out doing something on the water. I paused at my high end point, next to the freeway, dipped up a sample and sealed it. I wrote down the temperature – 40 degrees. I did the same at the mouth of the adjacent tributary. All was going as planned.

Later, at home, I did pH and chloride for the first time. pH couldn’t have been better; chloride could hardly have been worse. Oh well, I’m far from knowing the whole story on this water. I’ll need to watch how things change throughout the year, sampling some things every other day and some things weekly. It will be enlightening.

 

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And I think I’m on the cusp of something here; an idea which bears further development by us few libertarian conservationists. How much of this stuff, commonly relegated to officers of the government, could we undertake, furthering not only our knowledge of stream life but of the methodology needed to reach sound determinations about stream life? And, furthermore, with all the stream miles within the borders of a state like Pennsylvania, do we think there are enough officers of the government to do it all?

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