Greene County is known for its lush woodlands and expansive agriculture — landscapes that have been rapidly changing with increased industrial development. Countless forests and pastures have transformed into industrial facilities such as those surrounding oil and gas wells. The change in land use has exacerbated bank erosion in several Greene County streams, resulting in increased land loss and impaired waterways. High sediment and nutrient loads in the water lead to higher water flows and, with that, more frequent flooding. Flood events result in more streambank erosion, establishing a positive feedback loop that can only be stopped by reducing or mitigating sediment runoff.
Greene County Conservation District is seeking funding for a series of projects in Browns Creek that would help address the stream’s impaired water quality and recurring flood events. Having been rejected state funding in 2019 due to limited funds, the conservation district is pursuing the state’s financial support to complete streambank stabilization projects and implement agricultural best management practices. A state grant would facilitate the county’s work with Partners for Fish and Wildlife and allow for them to reduce sediment and nutrient runoff from heavy agricultural operations along the creek. The aim is to establish more off-stream water facilities for cattle, fence sections of the stream, plant riparian buffers, and stabilize the streambank to minimize flooding and restore aquatic habitats, among other crucial projects.
Funding Browns Creek’s restoration is crucial to the health and safety of individuals within and beyond Greene County. Continued stream erosion along Browns Creeks causes Greene landowners to lose more land — the land they pay taxes for every year. Beyond that, loads of pollutants would continue exacerbating the water quality of Browns Creek and eventually that of larger streams, such as the Monongahela River, which merges with the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh to become the Ohio River. Failing to address sediment erosion at a local level has widespread negative consequences on water quality at a watershed level.