The Stonycreek-Conemaugh River Improvement Project (SCRIP) was created in 1991 to address water quality problems in the Upper Conemaugh Basin. The basin includes Stonycreek River and Little Conemaugh River, which meet in Johnstown to form the Conemaugh River. The Conemaugh’s confluence with Loyalhanna Creek creates the Kiskiminetas River, which flows into the Allegheny River.
The Conemaugh Basin is beautiful, straddled by the highest ridges in Pennsylvania: Laurel Ridge tops 2,600 feet to the west and Allegheny Ridge tops 2,700 feet to the east. The Conemaugh River cutting through Laurel Ridge forms Conemaugh Gap, one of the steepest river gorges in the eastern U.S. The basin has great potential for canoeing and fishing because of the slopes and elevations of the streams and rivers. The many headwaters with native, reproducing brook trout illustrate the fishery potential of the basin.
But the ridges that make the region so beautiful and the headwaters such fine, cold-water fisheries contained vast coal reserves. Over 150 years of mining has left major environmental damage, known as abandoned mine drainage or AMD. Passive treatment technologies, using limestone drains and wetlands have made treatment feasible by increasing pH values and removing metals. SCRIP and its partners were successful in implementing the 6-site $5 million Oven Run AMD abatement project that has revived much of the fishery in the Stonycreek River over the last 20 years.
SCRIP is a coalition of grass roots groups and local resource agencies drawing in sportsmen, environmental groups, municipalities, businesses, coal operators, schools, etc. SCRIP was created with assistance from the late U.S. Congressman John Murtha in conjunction with the Somerset and Cambria County Conservation Districts. With the grassroots involvement and political support, SCRIP has succeeded in establishing public-private partnerships with many agencies such as the PA Department of Environmental Protection, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Geological Survey, US Office of Surface Mining and the Army Corps of Engineers.