The group hopes to meet about six times a year.
By VIRGINIA ROSS
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -- Participants at the first Wild Waterways Conservancy meeting on Saturday said they will work together to make the most of the natural resources of the Connoquenessing and Slippery Rock creeks.
And, they stressed, they will do what they can to control flooding along those waterways more effectively.
The group, made up of about a dozen officials and concerned citizens representing the state as well as municipalities in Lawrence, Butler, Beaver and Allegheny counties, exchanged ideas during a meeting at Slippery Rock University.
"I think we realize that in order for us to manage and make the most of the Connoquenessing and Slippery Rock watersheds, all of the municipalities affected by them need to work together, communicate and share ideas," said Wild Waterways chairman, Jack Livingston. "We thought we would start by bringing everyone together."
Some 30 municipalities in Western Pennsylvania are positioned along the two creeks. In September, hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed when the creeks overflowed.
Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy told the group on Saturday that flood control can be more effective with the use of new technology and resources such as Geographic Information Systems. He explained that municipalities can use this technology to create maps and other resources to provide information about various geographical areas to developers and individuals interested in building new homes or businesses.
Other speakers were Mark Gorman, director of the French Creek Project, of Meadville, Pa., who stressed the importance of conservation through cooperation, and John Walliser, Wild Waterways vice-chairman, who talked about recreational resources that can be found in and around the two creeks, and the economical opportunities those resources could provide for area municipalities.
Livingston, environmental studies program director at Slippery Rock, said Wild Waterways is looking to act as a coordinator and facilitator. He said the non-profit organization was formed to harness the challenges and opportunities of the two creeks. He is hoping representatives from various state agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, will attend the next session and provide their assistance to the various municipalities, he said. The group is looking to meet at least six times a year and likely will conduct its next session in September.
"I think there's a strong interest in looking at what state grants are available and what development and conservation ideas we can explore together," Livingston said. "This area, although it's become known for its flooding, has a lot to offer in the areas of recreation. We'd like to look at all of the possibilities."