The Simplest Way To Save The Delaware

The simplest way to ensure lasting protections for the fresh water resources of 15.6 million people is to raise the status the Upper and Middle Delaware River to “Exceptional Value” (EV). It would also help to ensure that EV or High Quality (HQ) tributary streams remain un-fragmented. At any rate, drillers seem to be getting along without having to drill in yet another precious watershed.

A statewide moratorium on new Unconventional Shale Gas Drilling permits in Pennsylvania might seem like a long-shot, but I gladly signed the Pennsylvanians for Clean Land Air and Water (CLAW) Petition. A ban on Fracking in the Delaware River Watershed ought to be more feasible, but as the CLAW signatures are rapidly accumulating, it occurs to me that maybe I’m just being cynical.

Presently, there’s a moratorium on drilling in The Special Protection Waters of the Delaware, but knowing our pro-gas, anti-tax governor, it’s not long for this world. Corbett has taken time out of his busy sked to meet with a pro-gas landowners lobby group from Northeastern PA, though he has yet to take one of Josh Fox’s calls. He’s also been cutting PA’s contribution to the Delaware River Basin Commission. A good ban, of course, would need to extend through Pennsylvania, into New York and even New Jersey.

As the price of NG hovers at ten-year lows, around $3, and the first boom bubble bursts, Marcellus gas drillers have been scaling back on PA rig counts and leases. One has to wonder, is it even necessary for them to drill exploratory wells yet another watershed region? I mean, Criky, it’s The Delaware! George Washington crossed this famous river to win the American Revolution. The Delaware is among the world’s most iconic rivers. Like the American Bald Eagle who is sustained by it, it’s an integral part of our national heritage. I firmly believe in separation of church and state yet is nothing sacred?

One can seriously argue that Fracking the Delaware would be unpatriotic. And it shouldn’t take a Revolution to keep dirty drilling out, either. Ideally, our collective common sense would keep tap water safe with better laws, adequate enforcement, and maybe a few decorative plaques.

From Little Giant to “Exceptional Value”
The Delaware is the largest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi, flowing freely for over 330 miles, with diverse wildlife, including forty species of fish. The Delaware River and its many tributaries are a treasure for our state, vital to the well-being of 15.6 million people and many more species. That’s 42% of Pennsylvania residents, 34% of New Jersey residents, 81% of Delaware residents, and 35% of New York residents.

The cool Delaware river headwaters are home to many currently threatened and endangered species, including populations of native freshwater mussels in the main stem and tributaries which help filter the water we drink. Pike County alone has over 550 species that are considered threatened or endangered.

Historically dubbed “The Little Giant,” The Delaware River Basin is one of the most productive water sources in the mid-Atlantic, supplying about 5% of the nation’s population. The Delaware River delivers 1,803 mgd (millions of gallons per day) to public water supplies. Though it’s a relatively small watershed, roughly .4% of the land mass of the continental US, it provides more drinking water than any adjacent basin.

Perhaps this what DEP Secretary Michael Krancer meant by quoting Nicholas DeBenedictis in saying, “It’s more water than we know what to do with.” SOURCE: Marcellus Shale A Community Forum, produced by WITF, Air Date: May 2, 2011.

When one considers that $22 billion a year is generated by this watershed, according to a recent University of Delaware study, I think it’s safe to say that Pennsylvanians know exactly what to do with it. They put it to good use everyday fishing, boating, farming, brewing, hiking and hunting. Failure to fully protect this exceptional watershed devalues many established industries, and will ultimately rend the socio-economic fabric of the commonwealth. The Delaware River provides considerable economic value to Pennsylvania, isn’t it only wise to protect this traditional asset?

In March, 2010 Pennsylvania Campaign for Clean Water posted Protecting Our State’s Best Streams.

In July, 2011, The Delaware Riverkeeper Network issued the press release, “Over 20 Groups Petition PA Dept of Environmental Protection for a Regional Upgrade of the Delaware River and Tributaries to Exceptional Value Status” [below] Riverkeepers and their allies are calling for main stem Delaware River and all Pennsylvania tributaries that flow into the Upper and Middle Delaware River to be re-designated from their current status of “High Quality or lower” to “Exceptional Value” status. This designation is reserved for the state’s cleanest and healthiest streams.

Currently, there are only 3,300 miles of streams in Pennsylvania with EV status and about 23,000 miles with HQ designation. The Delaware River meets several of the qualifiers put forth in the anti-degradation guidelines, and they are summarized in their petition.

To learn more, visit DelawareRiverkeeper.org and PACleanWaterCampaign.org, or simply visit a stream near you!

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About The DRBC
The Delaware River Basin Commission, which is comprised of the Governors of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, along with an appointed Director and committee members from each state, is the sole entity legally empowered to halt this highly controversial drilling practice. To protect drinking water, Philadelphia and New York City recently urged the DRBC to keep the current drilling moratorium in place until further studies were concluded. However, on December 8, 2010, the DRBC released drilling regulations which are currently in an extended public comment period.

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For Immediate Release
December 8, 2011
Contacts:
Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, 215 369 1188 ext 102 (office & cell)
Jessie Thomas-Blate, American Rivers, 202 347 7550
Ken Undercoffer, PA Council of Trout Unlimited, 814 765 1035

Over 20 Groups Petition PA Dept of Environmental Protection for a Regional Upgrade of the Delaware River and Tributaries
to Exceptional Value Status

12/8/11, Bristol, PA – Delaware Riverkeeper Network, American Rivers, Clean Water Action, Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited and over twenty local, state, and national organizations are submitting a regional stream upgrade petition to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to urge the Commonwealth to redesignate the Upper and Middle Delaware River and all tributary streams flowing into the River in these reaches on the Pennsylvania side to “Exceptional Value” status. This designation is reserved for the cleanest streams of the Commonwealth and only about 4% or 3,076 miles of Pennsylvania’s 86,000 miles of streams have received this designation (2009 data). Many of the streams of the proposed upgrade area have High Quality designation because of the clean streams in this region. The petitioners are submitting a 70-plus page petition that highlights water quality data from agency and non-agency sources and other qualifiers that they say, make this watershed deserving of an upgrade to Exceptional Value – the highest designation available to Pennsylvania streams. With this designation should come stronger protections to ensure this region’s water quality does not degrade in health over time.

According to Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, “our petition makes clear, the current designation given the Upper and Middle Delaware and its tributaries do not reflect the unique and important attributes of this River region as a whole.” The petitioners are requesting the PADEP expedite the petition due to proposed drilling in Marcellus shale deposits anticipated for the region which is underlain by the Marcellus Shale. “The streams and River subject to this petition are highly vulnerable from both development and drilling; in order to honor its commitment to the public to protect the health of the Commonwealth’s streams this petition must move forward and be granted as quickly as possible,” states van Rossum.

The Delaware River Basin provides drinking water for millions of Americans. An Exceptional Value designation is not only warranted, but essential to safeguard the health of the people, fish, and wildlife that rely on the clean water that the Delaware River provides every day.” Jessie Thomas-Blate, American Rivers

The Delaware River is a National Wild and Scenic River, designated by Congress for its outstanding resources. The River is the largest undammed River east of the Mississippi, flowing freely for 330 miles, and it is home to threatened and endangered species including diverse populations of native freshwater mussels, forty species of resident and migratory fish, and a valuable wild trout fishery in the upper reaches.” Ken Undercoffer, PA Council of Trout Unlimited.

A recent report by the University of Delaware shows this River Basin provides the region $22 billion in economic benefits from activities like hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, and farming. The Delaware River Basin is one of the largest water supply basins in the mid-Atlantic, providing drinking water for more than 15.6 million Americans.

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