SU students and professors install area's first state-approved manmade dam

Nov. 3—SELINSGROVE — Susquehanna University students and faculty members cut trees and branches to create the first state-approved manmade dams installed in an unnamed tributary near the Freshwater Research Institute off West Sassafras Street on Thursday.

Leading the project is Matt Wilson, director of the school's research center, who reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for permission to install the beaver dam analogs, or manmade structures designed to prevent erosion and slow the flow of sediment.

Eight, three-foot high dams are being installed by students and staff from Susquehanna's Center for Environmental Education and Research in partnership with DEP, the Chesapeake Conservancy, Merrill W. Linn Land & Waterways Conservancy, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and area conservation districts.

Senior Deanna Phillips, an earth and environmental sciences major, was among the volunteers pulling branches from nearby trees to use as material for the dams.

"We're using Bradford pear trees, which are invasive trees. It's exciting to be part of this," she said.

Savannah Rhoads, a watershed specialist with Union County Conservation District and a 2018 SU graduate, came out to help install the structures.

While beaver dam analogs are used in other parts of the U.S., "It's a new restoration technique in Pennsylvania," she said.

Wilson is looking forward to seeing whether it will be effective.

"My hope is that they will become approved restoration structures" across the state, he said.

Overseeing the installation Thursday was Jason Fellon, a DEP watershed manager, who said the dams will be monitored to determine if they stop erosion and slow sediment flow.

"I want to see how it works over time," said Fellon.