clean up riverbanks for Bassmaster fishing tournament

Volunteers to clean up riverbanks for Bassmaster fishing tournament
Wednesday, May 25, 2005 By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The algae-covered white plastic deck chair that’s partially submerged in the Ohio River near the Branchport Boat Club dock on the North Shore isn’t the kind of “structure” anglers competing in the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic will be looking to fish around.

Neither are the dented blue plastic 55-gallon barrels, sheets of tin, tires, plastic bottles or remains of a shed that line the riverbank from the Branchport dock downriver to the Island Marina.

So the 16th annual River Sweep, said to be the largest organized volunteer river cleanup in the country, will target that riverbank and others like it along the rivers around Pittsburgh on June 18.

Ken Bowman, regional director of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said flooding in September left tons of debris in and along southwestern Pennsylvania waterways that should be cleared before the Bassmaster Classic fishing tournament at the end of July.

“We have our work cut out for this year as we clean up along our rivers and their tributaries so area waterways are sparkling in time for the Bassmasters competition in July,” Bowman said yesterday at a news conference on the Branchport dock. “So we need a lot of volunteers.”

The cleanup, sponsored by the DEP, Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission and multiple corporate entities, will uncover more than 2,400 miles of river and creek banks in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

Sharon Frank, Duquesne Light Co.’s environmental affairs manager, said company volunteers will focus on the riverbank near the Branchport dock and will have pickup trucks available to move heavy debris to trash bins in a company facility nearby.

“The flooding washed a lot of stuff down here and we’ll be trying to pull as much as we can out of the river with ropes and hooks,” Frank said.

Last year, more than 1,000 volunteers collected trash and debris along the Ohio, Allegheny, Beaver, Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers in Pennsylvania. Cleanups will occur this year in Allegheny, Beaver, Armstrong, Washington, Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

“We’ve added a lot more sites along Chartiers Creek in southern Allegheny and Washington counties this year,” said Betsy Mallison, a DEP spokesman, “because they were really trashed by the floods.”

Volunteers who want to participate in the River Sweep can check DEP’s Web site at www.dep.state.pa.us, keyword: “DEP River Sweep.” Information is also available by calling Betsy Mallison at 412-442-4182 or via e-mail at epsriversweep@state.pa.us.

As a “wet” run for River Sweep on June 18, the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County and Hazelbaker’s Canoe Rental have scheduled a cleanup of an eight-mile stretch along the Youghiogheny River on June 17. For more information call 1-800-427-4837.

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