Oil City, PA -- Five employees of PennDOT’s northwest region were among seven state employees who have been honored with a Governor’s Award for Excellence for their role in relocating approximately 130,000 mussels from the construction area of the Hunter Station Bridge in Forest County.
The mussel relocation effort is thought to be the largest translocation of threatened and endangered species ever undertaken in North America. It was part of the environmental mitigation required before construction could begin to replace the bridge on Route 62 over the Allegheny River.
The Governor’s Award for Excellence is given to recognize employees or groups of state employees for exemplary job performance or service that reflects initiative, leadership, innovation, and/or increased efficiency. A total of 37 state employees received the award this year.
District 1 employees who received the award were;
• Autumn Kelley, district environmental specialist;
• Chris Wolfgong, environmental planner;
• Marc Rickard, environmental planner;
• Jeanette Uhl, highway design manager; and
• Larry Lineman, traffic control specialist.
PennDOT District 1 serves a region comprised of Crawford, Erie, Forest, Mercer, Venango, and Warren counties.
Other state employees in the group receiving the award were Jordan Allison, fisheries biologist with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission; and Antonia Zawisa, district environmental specialist with PennDOT’s Harrisburg office.
“This mussel translocation was a tremendous undertaking, and I join everyone at PennDOT District 1 in congratulating those involved in the effort. We are very proud of the initiative they have shown and the work they have done,” said District Executive William G. Petit.
“Obtaining environmental approval for construction of the Hunter Station Bridge was a complex and demanding task,” said Petit. “We are proud that we, as a district, were able to meet and comply with all of the required environmental laws and regulations and begin construction.”
The largest remaining populations of several threatened and endangered mussel species are located in the Allegheny River under or near the Hunter Station Bridge. Most of the mussel populations in their original range in other parts of the country were killed off years ago due to degraded water quality from pollution caused by industrial activities.
Approximately 91,000 of the 131,000 mussels relocated from the Hunter Station Bridge were federally listed threatened and endangered species.
The mussels were relocated to six different states and other waterways in Pennsylvania – some in areas where these mussel species have not existed for more than 100 years.
PennDOT partnered with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, federal agencies, and partner agencies and organizations in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, New York, and the Seneca Nation in New York to undertake the translocation.
The new bridge is currently under construction, approximately 100 feet upstream from the existing bridge. It is scheduled to be completed this year.
Media Contact – Jim Carroll, 814-678-7095