A local landowner has reintroduced trout to a stream in western Loudoun County for the first time in decades after a ten-year restoration project was completed this past fall that improved the stream's water quality, flood resilience, and fish habitat.
The nearly 82-acre property situated on Turneysville Road near Purcellville in Loudoun County contains wooded areas that provide habitat for many wildlife species and supports Piney Run, a stream that runs directly into the Potomac River, then to the Chesapeake Bay.
Today, hundreds of trout swim the stream for the first time in decades due to the landowner's perseverance and a 14-year old conservation agreement with Northern Virginia Conservation Trust dedicated to protecting this open space for all time.
NVCT Executive Director Alan Rowsome sees the stream restoration and trout restocking project as a major accomplishment and a testament to what can be achieved over time on conserved and restored lands.
"As a fisherman myself who doesn't get nearly enough opportunities to put a line in the water, it's extremely gratifying to see trout swimming in this stream the way nature always intended," Rowsome said.
The project site's landowner has a deep history not just to Loudoun County, but to the land itself. "Parts of the property have been in family hands since the early 1800s," said the owner, Joe Bane.
Duty is just a small part of the project's motivation for Bane; he instead recalls a childhood of fishing on the Piney Run stream with great affection.
"When we were children, we could come down here and fish every day," Bane said.
The convenience of a healthy stream provided meals and great recreation for his family, but by the time he went to college, flooding had changed everything.
"A large landowner about two miles upstream had a 50-acre lake for guests that he continually stocked with fish. With every flood or heavy rain event, fish would wash over the dam and stock the stream," Bane said.
"Then, about 35 years ago, the lake dam breached, and the stream began to fill with sediment, and erosion accelerated."
For the past ten years, Bane has worked to reverse the soil and water quality degradation caused by the floods and has now officially restocked the stream with fish for the first time in nearly 40 years.
In preparation for the trout's reintroduction to the stream, Bane ran a barrage of tests to ensure the likelihood of the fish's survivability. He plans to add trees to provide shade in the warmer months as the water temperature is paramount to trout survival.
"We did water temperature tests for several months, and we hover around the survivability temp for the native brook trout, but the brown trout should be fine. More trees will lower the water temps, which is why we will try to re-establish the native American Chestnut this year along the stream," Bane said.
Laurel Hill Trout Farm provided the four-hundred trout stocked in the Piney Run stream. According to the Pennsylvania-based trout farm's website, they have been in business for over 50 years. Loudoun Mitigation Bank, LLC oversaw the stream's restoration, pulling all the permits and acting as the contractor for the restoration project's entirety.
"You can see for yourself; the stream looks really good now, and we recently received our permits from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to put the trout back in, so we're putting trout back in to see how they're going to do. They're their own monitors of the water quality."