Troutbitten Opinion: Nicholas Meats, LLC vs Fishing Creek

by | Jun 16, 2020 | 21 comments

** This article is from contributing author, Austin Dando. **

Leaves once lush with deep greens now lie underboot. As the mercury drops and the foliage grows weary, the forest yields its summertime vibrance to a new spectacle. It is fall in the valley.

As a fisherman departs from his vehicle and aims downstream, he can’t help but to recount the many times he’s walked this path before.

There are memories from his youth, of wearing hip waders three sizes too big, shakily navigating the unknown terrain behind his Grandfather and catching his first wild brook trout. That was fifty years ago. He recalls moments in his early twenties, of heavy contemplation on the riverbank as he prepared to marry. Knowing life was changing, he wondered if it would slow down or only accelerate with age. He remembers leading his own children, now grown, down these very same footpaths. Now about to become a grandfather himself, the angler receives his answer about the quickness of life. This river has served as a reprieve and a place of solitude, where perspective has always been freely granted.

Removing the hook from its keeper, he casts once again into the watery refuge that is Fishing Creek in Central Pennsylvania.

Photo by Austin Dando

The Future?

Fishing Creek is currently at risk for drastic increases in groundwater withdrawal by Nicholas Meats, LLC of Loganton, PA.

Troutbitten stands against this proposal and believes this operation will be detrimental to the sustained life of Fishing Creek, as well as the health and welfare of all living things that rely on it.

(Links for public comment are found at the conclusion of this article.)

The Proposal

Nicholas Meats has submitted a Groundwater Withdrawal Application for one out of three of their recently drilled wells. Well WS-3, Project #2019-109. The water requested will be used for cooling, cleaning, and processing of raw meat from their slaughterhouse in Clinton County.

The water drawn from this well will come from the aquifer which sits beneath Sugar Valley. This is the same aquifer that provides cold, clean water for families, fish, insects and wildlife, all of which depend upon Fishing Creek.

Image from SRBC Maps

The current proposal from Nicholas Meat requests a maximum daily usage of 120 gallons/minute, equating to 172,800 gallons/day, or 63,072,000 gallons/year (assuming a 365-day operation). For perspective on this amount of water, imagine a swimming pool the size of twenty-four football fields laid end to end, and six feet deep all the way across. That’s simply too much water to withdraw from Fishing Creek.

Within the same proposal are plans for dramatic expansion of that withdrawal in the next fifteen years. Nicholas Meats indicates the rise of water demand to increase by four times. That’s a daily usage of 700,000 gallons/day, or 255,500,000 gallons/year.

This is an unfathomable amount of water to be removed from our small trout stream, year after year.

The Problems

It is important to know that Nicholas Meats LLC has already begun operating Well 3, unmonitored. In fact, Nicholas Meats was required by a Consent Order and Agreement (CO&A) to obtain a docket of approval when it was found to be withdrawing more than 100,000 gallons/day. This is in direct violation of the SRBC regulatory threshold.

During the discussions regarding Well 3, the two other wells related to the facility were discovered. Well 1 and Well 4. All three wells must be considered collectively by the SRBC.

Also remember, the wastewater must go somewhere. And our Central PA limestone is porous. Nicholas Meats plans to dispose of their wastewater through land application (likely a spray system). If the wastewater is reintroduced to our aquifer after mixing with meat processes, it could lead to contamination of groundwater. Currently, Nicholas hauls their bulk water offsite.

If the application is approved, there is no certainty for the future health of one of Pennsylvania’s premier and most beloved Class A Wild Trout streams. Especially when taking into account our changing weather patterns and unpredictable rainfall forecasts. While the Susquehanna River Basin Commission is conducting environmental surveys and studies, it is difficult to project the outcome in the event this amount of water is removed from its source. To address that notion, the SRBC states:

“The Commission requires aquifer testing to be completed and hydrogeologic information to be provided. Staff uses the aquifer testing results and hydrogeologic information provided in the application to determine if the proposed withdrawal is sustainable and if it will have a significant adverse impact on surface water features, including Fishing Creek. – Additionally, staff is completing an ecological evaluation of the area to help identify and assess potential impacts to aquatic features, species, and habitat. Our review is ongoing and will not be complete for at least several months.”

Risk of sinkholes, lost reaches of river, and karst geology are among top public concerns given the limestone features and structural makeup of Sugar Valley. The SRBC stated they are taking those factors into consideration as well. As stated:

“Losing stream reaches can be natural or caused by groundwater withdrawals when the water table is lower than the bottom of the stream channel. Groundwater withdrawals in karst settings can stimulate sinkhole development and affect stream and spring flows. Commission staff is aware of the karst topography of the area, which will be considered during the review of the application.

Photo by Austin Dando

What can you do?

These concerns are being addressed because the surrounding community, the general public and anglers like you are already speaking out.

Right now, we have an opportunity to speak on behalf of Fishing Creek and offer a public comment to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. I will stress again, it is not only important to think about the requested groundwater usage of today but the sizable fifteen-year expansion as well.

If you wish to voice your opinion, you can do that HERE.

Information regarding the figures and data provided can be found HERE.

Read the information thoroughly, and draw your own conclusions. It is important that we include as many viewpoints, and well-rounded thoughts as we can. This way the Commission is able to make an educated decision while accounting for public consensus.

Troutbitten stands against this proposal and believes this operation will be detrimental to the sustained life of Fishing Creek, as well as the health and welfare of all living things relying on it.

People from all over the world come to enjoy this watershed, to spend money in the surrounding community, and enrich their lives through this rare, uniquely wild resource. We fear this will be a temporary, monetary gain for Nicholas Meats that leaves a permanent scar on a stream that has a long-standing history and heritage running through its currents.

Photo by Austin Dando

Let’s stand up for Fishing Creek.

Please share this article with others who care about Fishing Creek.

And here’s the public comment link again:

Please take the time to comment HERE.

 

— Austin Dando

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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21 Comments

  1. Voiced.

    I travel about 3 hours to fish this stream. Why? Because I live in NJ and this is exactly what has happened here to the point where there is not one quality wild brown stream left. Quick profits and corrupted politicians coupled with residents that just do not care about the environment resulted in disastrous consequences. I will defend these resources until the end.

    Reply
    • I’ll reply to my own comment here because I can’t believe this as I just found out about it. When it rains it pours:

      On Friday 6/5/20 the Bushkill Creek (Easton, PA) was de-watered from the Buzzi-Unicem quarry to below the town of Tatamy approximately 1.5 miles. It’s flow was severely diminished as far down as Easton. This is the 3rd such dewatering in the last 3 years resulting in fish kills and totally irresponsible management of a Class A wild brown trout stream. The latest event resulted in the destruction of thousands of wild brown trout, countless macro invertebrates and other aquatic life. This is not fair to the public resource or the landowners and communities down stream and it is truly a disgrace that our regulatory agencies enable this practice.

      Reply
  2. Comments sent. I, like Tom, travel 3 hours from MD for the same reasons. I love Fishing Creek; best fishing day ever has been had there…

    Reply
  3. Just another corporation that doesn’t give a damn except for their bottom line.

    Reply
  4. Comment submitted. This beautiful stream must be protected for all, not destroyed for the profits of the few.

    Reply
  5. Thank you for sharing, and raising awareness about this proposal. This is a very, VERY special area of our state, and we need to be good stewards for future generations.

    Comments submitted! <

    Reply
  6. Yikes! Too much meat and not enough catch and release trout streams. Here is what I wrote to the commission:

    3-4 times a year I travel seven hours just so I can fish the beautiful trout stream waters around State College, Pennsylvania. I am not alone. I’m one of thousands if not more anglers from all over the U.S. and indeed the world who make similar trips bringing perhaps hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to the local Pennsylvania communities and economy. THE favorite fishing spot for me is Fishing Creek, near Lamar. PA.

    That is why I am dismayed to learn Nicholas Meats of Clinton Co. has submitted a groundwater withdrawal application for wells directly related to the aquifer that supplies Fishing Creek. Not only will the proposed withdrawal of 63,000,000 gallons of water a year almost assuredly adversely affect the fish, insects, plants and animals of this wonderful natural resource but the discharge of the increased wastewater from the Nicholas Meats plant will no doubt also have a deleterious effect.

    I’m asking the commission to consider the economic and aesthetic ramifications in granting this water withdrawal request. I can find other states in which to fish for trout but I’d prefer to return to the beautiful trout friendly waters of State College, Pennsylvania and in particular Fishing Creek.

    Thank you,

    Greg Jowaisas, trout fisherman and wildlife advocate

    Reply
    • Yep and money talks . He always does what the hell he wants. And gets away with it

      Reply
  7. Austin,
    Wow, I’m shocked!
    I’ll comment on the proposal.
    I don’t see a reference to this issue in a local paper, is there one or one forthcoming?
    Is Trout Unlimited aware of this issue? I’ve found the TU member forum is very active and you would get more comments on this issue if they’re aware.

    Reply
  8. Don’t let emotion enter into the equation. Nobody cares! And it’s a losing defense. This issue is exclusively about economics and the law. Letter writing is a good start to get the politicians and neighbors on our side, but to stop the Meat Man, as much as I hate to say it, we need a deal champion and legal horsepower. Dom, you started the fight! I recommend you lead the charge until you bloody the bastard and he turns tail and goes home. It’s a noble charge. And think of it as free advertising for Troutbitten! I’ll bet everyone reading this agrees with me. You need to find a lawyer that shares our passion and enthusiasm for protecting nature and our natural resources. That lawyer may be reading this. I hope you are. If not, someone may know of a lawyer that will help. It’s tough to ask a lawyer to work for free, but I’m sure there is one out there that needs to fill up his or her pro bono bucket for such a monstrous cause. Water depletion on Fishing Creek could take on a life of its own similar to the privatization of Spruce Creek. We can’t let it happen! I’m here to provide time and resources to assist you. I await your news, requests and lead.

    Reply
  9. This article has been posted on the Tiadaghton Chapter TU Facebook page to raise awareness. Personally, I have enjoyed this stream for many years and believe this is a resourse we cannot afford to lose.

    Reply
  10. Comment submitted. Thank you Dom and Austin for raising awareness on this threat to a central PA gem. Fishing creek is my home stream and an extremely special place to many. Austin did a great job capturing that feeling in the intro. I join Troutbitten in urging all who care to submit a public comment.

    Reply
  11. For those of us who actually LIVE here! We depend on our water. I truly hope that if this is going to affect our drinking water, etc. the county and township would think twice. I for one can see a costly court cases coming from this! Is it worth it to appease one business?

    Reply
  12. I own the last camp downstream in “the narrows” (Fishing Creek). This is awful. Our cabin association is doing all we can to fight this, but we are going to need help. Lots of help. Big thanx to all of those who are joining the fight.

    Reply
  13. A beautiful stream and nature. There is no need for another factory here. I will echo what Gregory said- he put it perfectly.

    Reply
  14. I feel as fisherman of this great stream and others like it we need to do what it takes to protect it. I help with a Fly fishing Club in the area and I think someone that has more time to devote to the fight should start a go fund me to obtain a lawyer to work for the anglers in this battle. I work in a hospital so my time is limited but I will donate towards getting a lawyer. We need to stop this before all of our beautiful wild trout streams are gone.

    Reply
  15. Why can’t they recycle the water they use? And don’t say the can’t, it’s just cheaper to use fresh water . The water CAN be recycled there is no doubt about that fact. So if we add a penny a pound to the cost of processing the meat we can keep a beautiful stream beautiful.

    Reply
  16. There are many false statements in Austin Dando’s article about Nicholas Meats, LLC vs Fishing Creek. Also, there are no facts to support his opinions. He did very little or no research on the proposed project.

    Reply
    • Your comment itself is inaccurate and without any facts for your opinion.

      Reply
  17. The reason I said little research was done for the article is because the project is proposing to recycle up to 90% of the wastewater once the proposed treatment facilities are approved and constructed. Therefore, when these facilities are operating the water withdrawal from the wells will be greatly reduced. Millions of dollars will be spent on these facilities. The plan is to not have to withdraw from the wells the amount of water listed in the application as the 15-year future daily need.

    Reply
    • ** “The plan is to not have to withdraw from the wells the amount of water listed in the application as the 15-year future daily need.” **

      Ah, but the public must assume that the full amount will be withdrawn. Why would we assume any different, when NM has already been in violation of other permits?

      Reply

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