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Watershed Threats and Problems - Fifteenmile Creek

Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct
Interstate 68 bridge over Fifteenmile Creek. The highway bisects the watershed in the east-west direction. Photograph taken from south side of the highway looking east.

While the presence of Green Ridge State Forest in Maryland and Buchanan State Forest in Pennsylvania afford significant protection of a large portion of the Fifteenmile Creek basin, the watershed is still threatened by problems associated with commercial and residential development.  The urbanization pressure is largely attributable to the fact that the watershed is bisected by Interstate 68 that provides a major transportation corridor to the urban and suburban growth centers in eastern Maryland.  Presently, a proposed 4,300 home development on a 935 acre subdivision in the Terrapin Run subwatershed of Fifteenmile Creek is being held up by a civil court case involving the developer, Allegany County, and two state of Maryland departments.

The impacts of the proposed development on surface and groundwater resources are major issues that have yet to be resolved.  This issue is further complicated by two other facts:  (1) several reaches of Fifteenmile Creek and its tributaries are considered Tier II (i.e., high quality) waters—ostensibly providing them with additional protection under the anti-degradation rules of the Clean Water Act; and (2) the presence of the federally-endangered Harperella plant along reaches of the mainstem of Fifteenmile Creek

Erosion and sedimentation from a variety of sources, including timber harvesting, a relatively extensive network of maintained gravel roads, and an ATV trail, are perceived as major threats to water quality.  Future development of natural gas resources within the Marcellus shale also represent a significant threat to water quality.

Finally, invasive species and pests—such as the gypsy moth caterpillar, can have severe consequences for the productivity and composition of the second-growth forest itself.