Editor’s Note: This is a column on area watersheds by Blyden Potts and guest columnists to spread awareness of the area’s tributaries and the efforts of area volunteers to keep them clean.
A public hearing was held Monday evening at the Southampton (Cumberland) Township Community Center in Cleversburg, on the issue of rezoning a parcel of farmland to allow for larger warehouses. It was very well attended, if not quite packed.
Three new warehouses will be built on what is now Cramer Road, between Interstate 81 and U.S. Route 11. Most of the land is already zoned for commercial use, including warehouses. The hearing was about rezoning an adjoining parcel on Goodhart Road, from agricultural to commercial, so it can be included in the warehouse project. As part of the project, Cramer Road will become a spur, ending in a cul-de-sac at the warehouse gate.
Area residents asked questions and expressed concerns about construction issues, heavy truck traffic, adjustments to Exit 29 of I-81, traffic diverting onto Goodhart Road, litter from the increased traffic, light pollution from the warehouses, the visual impact of the warehouses, strains on infrastructure, potential taxpayer costs and adverse impact on property values.
A few of us attended the meeting for a different reason. There is a stream-related issue with development at this site, even though no stream is in sight from the project site. Tom Smithwick made a public comment on this at the meeting, and submitted published science articles by Todd Hurd on the topic, as official exhibits.
On the surface, Burd Run flows along Airport and Walnut Bottom roads to the bridge on Route 11, and eventually joins Middle Spring Creek, but that is just the surplus water. Much of Burd Run drains down Cleversburg Sink, which is why, in dry seasons, the upper part of the stream typically ends at Airport Road Park.
Trace dye tests conducted a few years ago by Todd Hurd at Shippensburg University show not only that water from Cleversburg Sink flows to the Big Spring south of Newville, but that water from the sink at the Cramer Road also flows to Big Spring. Area residents say there are other sinks in that area.
If you draw a line from Cleversburg Sink to Big Spring, that line passes just east of the Cramer Road sink and very near the edge of this project. It is the same direction that underlying rock formations and surface ridges run.
This hints strongly that an underground continuation of Burd Run flows under or very near the site where the warehouses would be built. Water entering the ground there may go directly or almost directly into the stream.
One of the presenters for the developer said usual precautions for karst geography will be taken in the design and construction, but this is not just the usual situation. The usual situation is the possibility of sinks or caves. In this situation, we know there is some kind of underground feeder stream, and not even just a generic one. This one feeds Big Spring, one of Pennsylvania’s largest and most celebrated springs. The purity of Big Spring is of special importance. It is the secondary water source for Newville. It is what makes Big Spring a premier and famous trout stream. It draws tourists. It is featured by environmental advocacy groups. The commonwealth considered Big Spring sufficiently important that it acquired the surrounding land.
The potential exists for irreparable environmental harm. Thus also there is potential for extensive litigation and huge damage awards. Everyone making decisions that impact what happens there ought to weigh heavily the need for environmental protection in their decisions, and do their homework and due diligence. This might be an area to consider giving special protections, rather than to put at increased risk.
Editor’s Note: Read more about Monday’s public hearing in next week’s News-Chronicle.
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