People working with a group of environmental organizations are literally venturing knee-deep in mud and water to help farmers by improving the health of a stream in a rural section of Union County.

Members of the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, county conservation districts, nonprofit organizations and local landowners began work six years ago to rehabilitate Turtle Creek in East Buffalo Township.

Representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are now helping to shore up stream banks, grading land near the stream and planting vegetation along a 1,300-foot-long section in East Buffalo Township.

Last week, they were working in the rain, quietly moving the project forward.

The Turtle Creek Watershed covers 12.7 square miles of land in Union County with 12 miles of flowing stream. DEP estimates that nearly two-thirds of the stream is impaired, primarily because of sediment in the water, the result of erosion.

Workers are now placing logs along stream embankments to help deflect fast-moving water, slowing the rate of erosion.

Renee Carey, executive director of the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, noted that farmers were concerned about the erosion and the effects on the fields they have available for crops.

“In grading the banks, we’re gently widening the floodplain,” Carey explained. “So as the water comes up and spreads out, it slows down and loses some of that energy.”

Re-establishing vegetation also helps. That’s an effort that has been going on for the past few years.

“We’re seeing less and less muddy water during higher rain events,” Jason Fellon, a watershed manager for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said as he and others worked through a recent rainy stretch. “The other big thing you see is vegetation down to the water’s edge, not a vertical eroded dirt bank, so that’s the big change. Water clarity has improved.”

Landowners also have helped. Some have devoted time normally used for vacations to provide hands-on labor.

All of this work continues in rural areas that are primarily out of sight for most of us. Those who are helping are there in the rain and mud, working without much recognition of their efforts to improve the local environment. But they most certainly deserve that along with an overflow of appreciation.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Digital Editor David Hilliard.