I thought you would be interested in knowing that since Bil Gilbert came down the West Branch the Clearfield sewage plant has become a secondary treatment facility and the coloration from that source has improved drastically.
The big problem, of course, is the pollution from the old deep mines along more than 30 miles of Clearfield Creek, which feeds into the West Branch below Clearfield. There are more than a hundred. Some of these discharge sulfur water all the time, some only when we have a heavy rain. Federal and state studies have been made of this, and Maurice Goddard, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources, and I have discussed it a number of times. With limited funds the state tries to clean up one or two tributary streams a year, but it's a discouraging, slow process.
Under the new federal stripping law, a fee of 35� per ton of soft coal mined goes for reclamation. The state distributes the money, and we have already pushed strongly to be sure that Clearfield County, now the leading strip-mine producer in Pennsylvania, gets its share. Ironically, a factor working in our favor is that many of these small drift and deep mines are above where the strip miners' heavy draglines are now going and, in the process of reaching the deeper seams, they are cleaning up the troublemakers. Then, of course, with the backfill, the abandoned mines are closed in.
I also noted with interest Gilbert's remarks about the Curwensville Dam. During Hurricane Agnes the dam filled to within 14 feet of the top. If we had not had the Curwensville Dam, Clearfield would have been 12 feet under water. The dam had a sizable impact on the Lock Haven level, too. During the 1936 flood we were under three feet of water.
As Gilbert has pointed out, the fishing is really getting good now. It had been 50 years since the West Branch was clean around Clearfield, but about seven years ago some of us put in catfish fingerlings. Two years later we were getting eight-and nine-inch catfish. Now the river is loaded with suckers, and there are bass and trout, too. The big bass are inclined to go down the river but the trout seem to be comfortable, especially near the mouths of the feeder runs.
Another boon from the Curwensville Dam is that dam tenders let us know when they are going to let some water out of the dam and one can ride that crest for miles.
WILLIAM K. ULERICH
The secret is out, but I suppose it is time we shared this canoeing gem with other people. Bil Gilbert has captured the wilderness, scenery and solitude of the West Branch as well as revealed its problems.
I went to school alongside this lovely river, and your article brought back more memories of the joy I experienced on its banks than any class reunion could.
I will set aside this issue with the intention of reading it again and again. And I'm sure many others who have had an affair with north-central Pennsylvania and its West Branch will do the same.
The title of Joe Marshall's article summarizing the 1978 National Football League draft (The Same Old Song and Dance, May 15) couldn't have been more inappropriate in the case of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have been notorious in recent years for their poor draft selections. They have not enjoyed a blue-chip draft since 1973, when they acquired Joe DeLamielleure and Joe Ferguson. That all changed this year when the Bills, behind the drafting genius of Chuck Knox, picked Terry Miller, running back extraordinaire, in the first round.