Water Pollution in the Allegheny Reservoir

The Allegheny National Forest- Allegheny Reservoir- Allegheny River

Wow! What a difference a year makes!

The last two weekends of March (Saturdays, Mar 24th and 31st) I found myself driving rt 59 from Bradford to Warren. I often have driven this route every spring time for the past several (15) years.

Like many others, I enjoy stopping at the Kinzua Dam and look at the water.

Usually, the best water visibility is in the spring time, due to several factors. One, when the ice is covering the lake, there is no "surface action" from wind and waves, and all the particulate matter "settles out". Also, when the water is cold and sealed off from oxygen by the ice, most of the small living creatures die off, microbes, algae and etc. This time of year is before any pollen is formed and distributed into the water. Pollen *was* previously the biggest contributer to lower water visibility. It's what makes the water look more greenish blue and less transparent.

I might add here, that I am a scuba and snorkel diver and I often dive on the Allegheny Reservoir (AKA Kinzua Lake). Water visibility is something us divers pay attention to. Many times in the past I have dove in early spring ignoring the cold water to take advantage of the improved water visibility.

As an avid kayaker, I also have guided many kayak trips down the stretch of river below the dam into Warren. Last year in particular, we did an "early season trip" about this same time of year. Last year the water was clean and clear. If I'm not mistaken, it was John Peterson on his website that called it: "Crystal Clear Water".

What I found on Saturday March 24th shocked me to say the least! Instead of the usual relatively crystal clear clean water, it was a very opaque murky, muddy brown!

I have never in all the past springs, seen the water this color! I was so shocked, as soon as I got home I started making phone calls. My first call to the ANF Bradford Ranger District.

I just can't believe that the water quality could change so dramatically in just ONE year!

What caused this dramatic change in water quality? The only thing that happened different in the past year or so was the building of several roads around the Allegheny Reservoir for logging and new oil and gas well sites. Can THEY had had such a dramatic damaging effect on the water quality this fast and this widespread? I talked with a buddy about flying over and taking some of the following photos of the Reservoir and surround hills. He not only got some good photos of the massive "brown cloud" in the water, but also photos of what is most likely the cause or source of the yellow-brown mud.

Here are the following photos of what seems to be the cause of the sever change in water quality.

And I'd like to point out, that the ORIGINAL idea to form the Allegheny National Forest was expressly for the protection of this magnificent watershed or aquifer!

Here is a "cut and paste" I took from the ?ANF website:

The motto "Caring for the Land and Serving People" captures our Natural Resource Agenda to provide watershed health, sustainable forest ecosystem management, road management, and outdoor recreation. We manage for a healthy, vigorous forest that provides wood, clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation, and more!

The Forest Service practices conservation of all natural resources entrusted to its stewardship, caring for the land and striving to balance these multiple benefits. Gifford Pinchot, first Chief of the Forest Service, summed it up when he said National Forests are managed "for the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run."

Here's the pics:

Protection of the dam or the water?


Here is the actual color of what was described as "crystal clear water"!


Last spring there was 15' visibility, this year there is ZERO inches of visibility!


Brown above and below the dam


Runoff from the Scandia area entering Reservoir


Here there is no clean water in site!


"Dirty" water mixing with cleaner water


Here is water with about 10' visibility (the "norm" for past years this time of year) mixing with water with ZERO inches of visibility


More dirty than clean water


Still some ice cover


We were able to obtain many (WAY TOO MANY) photos of sites like these all over the ANF draining into creeks and then into the reservoir. I was able to blow them up and analyze the "drainage" that is leaking into creeks. Even after examining hundreds of photos of erosion from roads, gravel pits, oil well sites, and clearings, it's easy to see what an immediate and devastating effect it has on the water quality.

I wonder what effect this drastic change in water quality will have on what *was* one of the best fishing areas in the state?


The headwaters of this creek starting out as yellow-brown silty mud!






Clearings and pits like this are becoming all too plentiful in the ANF




An example of runoff streams looking like roads


Showing how extensive the runoff is



A typical "gravel pit" for road construction


Attention politicians, state and federal agencies, and concerned citizens! Now you have seen the damage, what do YOU plan to do about it?

The saga continues!

Here is an article that ran in the Warren Times Observer:

Muddy Waters: Environmentalists sound alarm; Corps says it’s normal


4/7/2007 - The cloudy appearance of water in the Allegheny Reservoir is not a reflection of the dreary skies overhead.

Following recent storms, the water has taken on a cloudy hue and controversy over the discoloration has led to differing theories as to why.

According to Steve Lauser of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the change in the water is typical for this time of year.

“The water is cloudy,” he said, “but it is normal.”

As a result of heavy rainfall and accompanying winds in early to mid-March, water and sediment from the middle and bottom layers of the reservoir - which typically settle during the winter months - were mixed with the top layer.

Lauser said the stirring of layers is what produced the water’s discoloration or “cloudiness.”

“This situation usually occurs in the spring and late fall,” said Lauser. “The discoloration results from the sediment that has been stirred up in the past few weeks.”

In addition to the mixing of the reservoir’s layers, Lauser also noted that run-off from drainage areas surrounding the Allegheny Reservoir could also have a role in the water’s cloudiness.

Large amounts of mud, sand and other sediments carried by melting snow and thawing groundwater are draining into the reservoir.

“We did have a substantial snow pack this winter and a pretty significant change in temperatures recently,” he said. “The run-off would have began in mid-March and could now have a role in the water’s condition.”

Bill Belitskus, board president of the Allegheny Defense Project, agreed with Lauser that run-off from areas surrounding the reservoir is the cause of the water’s murky appearance, but he feels that this is not a normal occurrence.

“I’ve lived here 25 years and I have never seen this before,” he said. “Not since the development of oil and logging roads in the surrounding areas.”

John Stoneman of Allegheny Outdoor Adventures agreed.

“This is definitely coming from all the roads and all the well sites,” he said. “There’s no denying that. I definitely challenge anyone to go out to the reservoir after the snow starts melting or after some rain and they will see it. Every bay and creek has been affected by the oil and logging roads.”

According to Lauser, despite its origin, the cloudy appearance of the water will “settle out” with time.

Belitskus and Stoneman felt immediate action needed to be taken to improve the condition of the water.

“I do think responsibility needs to be taken to protect the drainage areas,” said Belitskus.

“It just seems like there are too many people who want to stick their heads in the sand about this issue,” added Stoneman.

Maybe I should go to my local republican state Representative ... Surely HE is on the side of the people who want clean water! LOL!


On Easter Day, April 8th I was able to drive completely around the Kinzua Reservoir. I got to observe the water from may different sources.

Contrary to what my friend at the Bradford Ranger District told me last week, the brown water is NOT coming from NY State!

The water as observed at the Rt. 86 bridge was a clear blue green, a very pleasant color. There was between 8' and 10' visibility. What some might even call "crystal clear" water. Not quite as clean as our drinking reservoir water, but VERY clean compared to the south end of the reservoir.

Certainly on April 8th you could not blame the brown water on what we are getting from NY state. Not only is the water clean, but there is one heck of a volume flowing into the res.

I also followed the Conawango Creek into Warren from Frewsburg NY and that also was what I would call clean, clear water.

Back at the dam now a week from when I observed the water visibility at ZERO, it was a hardly noticeable amount cleaner, or should I say less polluted! The visibility is now 2 inches (compared to 8 to 10 feet coming from NY). And believe it or not TWO inch visibility looks better than ZERO visibility! It looks more like watered down yellow-brown paint, rather than thick yellow-brown paint! Here are the photos!

A little less bright yellow, only because it was evening and the sun was not shining like last week


I don't understand how the pure white, clean snow can produce a yellow-brown mud when it melts like the "water expert" from the Army Corps of Engineers is insinuating.


Agh! Now THERE is a color match! Look at the water in the tire tracks in the left hand photo (funny to see TIRE TRACKS on the North Country National Scenic Trail!!!!) ... But compare the water in the newly formed ruts (Thanks Howard Drilling!) and the water color in the Reservoir, below or down stream from the rutted trail/road/national hiking trail/oil access road!



This is just north of Rt 59 looking west toward Warren. Even from miles away you can see the discolored water coming from Brothwell and Pigeon Runs flowing into Sugar Bay


A closer look shows the murky, muddy, yellow-clay pouring from Brothwell and Pigeon Runs


Other outdoor pages of interest:
The Nazi Head :

Step It Up 2007 :

Too Many Roads in the ANF!

Here is the Allegheny Outdoor Adventure Page :