The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 6, 2010

River research center gets $1.5M

SUNBURY — The plan to convert the vacant Shikellamy State Park marina building into an environmental education research center moved one step closer to fruition Friday, when a $1.5 million grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was released.

That brings to $4 million the funds now dedicated to the project, said H.W. “Skip” Wieder Jr., who is coordinating it for the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies.

The coalition, Wieder said, is a group of scientists, residents and corporations that have come together to promote research, provide environmental education, improve water quality and address other environmental concerns related to the Susquehanna River watershed.

“This is has been an ongoing project for three years now,” he explained. “It’s already a work in progress.” Wieder credited state Reps. Merle Phillips, R-108 of RD2 Sunbury, and Russell Fairchild, R-85 of Lewisburg, with securing the funding needed to complete the plan.

Once finished, scientists at the research center will monitor the water quality of the river’s West Branch at 17 sites between Lock Haven and Sunbury.

The center will also act as a place for students, researchers and scientists, as well as people simply interested in the ecology of the river.

An engineering firm is now drawing up plans for the building. If the current schedule holds true, Wieder said, the building conversion should be completed by late fall 2011.

The coalition includes representatives from six academic institutions: Bloomsburg University, Susquehanna University, Bucknell University, Lock Haven University, Kings College and Lycoming College.

Also belonging are the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the SEDA-Council of Governments, Forum-for-the-Future and the Geisinger Health System.

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