Friday, June 25, 2010

Life Finds a Way

The Little North East turns from a piedmont stream, with lots of riffle and run sections to a coastal plain stream with a relatively gentle flow due to flat geography and sandy rather than rocky bottom, right about where it crosses under route 40. This section of stream was completely dug up for a sewer line to pass under the creek bed to a new pump station on the creeks northern bank two years ago. I slipped into the shallow water here below the route 40 bridge, and saw a large expanse of algae covered sand flat There weren’t any fish here. No crayfish. No obvious life except for the algal mat, not even any relief from the monotonous bottom, except for a few sandbags that remain as remnants of a coffer dam constructed for the sewer line routing effort. A large rimless truck tire loomed out of the distance, half buried in the sand. The continuous loud high pitched whine of a pump droned in the background, and gave the place an eerie industrial feel. I read accident reports that involved divers drowning after being trapped against water intakes, and while I was fairly certain this was the site of a pumping station and not a water intake, I was still nervous. The sandy bottom sloped off to a three foot deep hole with tree trunks and branches lodged against an old stump in the steeply cut bank. A school of pumpkinseed sunfish gathered near the wood. I’m fairly certain I saw the shadow of a small mouth bass swim off, and a calico colored sucker darted from the gravel bottom just as I passed over it, much like a stingray glides over the sand with one powerful flick of its wings. This stream is far from dead, and witnessing these fish lessened the industrial feel. Stringy brown strands of algae waved toward the surface as oxygen bubbles suspended them in the water. Even this sign of a degraded stream had a certain beauty about it and part of its attraction was that life could find a way in this used stream. Even the ugly and perceived dead streams, like Laurel Hill and this stretch of the Little North East have beauty. Some of that beauty is in witnessing how life finds a way. That life is here gives hope that we can work to restore the North East and Laurel Hill to a less degraded state than where it is now. And that is beautiful.

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