Delaware River is “Exceptional” – Riverkeeper Wants to Make It Official

[UPDATED: May 25, 2012] Including more info on Reclassification to Exceptional Value or High Quality Stream

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN)  is petitioning the PA Department of Environmental Protection to upgrade the Upper and Middle Delaware River to Exceptional Value (EV) Quality,” states Faith Zerbe , DRN’s Water Watch Director.

To this very productive end, Delaware Riverkeepers and over 20 organizations and 300 co-petitioners have submitted a petition to to PADEP, and they are actively seeking  signatures and letters of support. If you value this magnificent, historic American River, please lend your voice and sign on to the Original Petition to elevate the Delaware’s environmental, economic and social status. Demand adequate protections for drinking water today! 

Save the Delaware, Seriously

Delaware Riverkeeper Network and over 20 organizations and 150 co-petitioners have submitted a petition to the Pennsylvania Dept of Environmental Protection (PADEP) to upgrade the Upper and Middle Delaware region to Exceptional Value (EV) status.  Based on diverse and healthy water quality, the vast public lands in the region, the importance of the Delaware River as provider of clean water to 15 million Americans, and the incredible ecotourism that this region brings to millions of citizens, this action is needed to give this region the proper designation it deserves…. This designation is reserved for the state’s cleanest and healthiest streams.  Right now, there are only 3,300 miles of streams in Pennsylvania that have EV status and about 23,000 miles that have High Quality (HQ) status.”

Show your support for upgrading the Upper and Middle Delaware River to Exceptional Value status by writing a letter to be part of the original submission to PADEP. Click here to sign on to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network submission form, or cut/past/personalize the DRN letter below:

Secretary Michael Krancer
PA Department of Environmental Protection
Rachel Carson State Office Building
400 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101

Dear Secretary Krancer:

I am writing in full support of the regional stream upgrade petition submitted to the PA Department of Environmental Protection by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and over 20 organizations and 300 supporters that requests an upgrade of the main stem Delaware River and all Pennsylvania tributaries that flow into the Upper and Middle Delaware River from their current designated use status of High Quality or lower designation to Exceptional Value (EV) status.   The Delaware River is deserving of this highest designation status as it meets several of the qualifiers put forth in the anti-degradation guidelines and is a tremendous resource for the Region.

The Delaware River is a National Wild and Scenic River, designated by Congress for its outstanding attributes and resources.  The water quality of the Delaware River is so high that the entire 197-mile nontidal river is protected by a special regulatory program enacted by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) over the past 2 decades to prevent water quality degradation.  In fact, the Delaware River is the longest stretch of anti-degradation waters in the Nation – and it is the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi – it flows freely for 330 miles.  These distinctions make the Delaware an irreplaceable resource, an extraordinary natural asset, a unique and powerful provider that is deserving of the highest designation Pennsylvania has to offer – Exceptional Value status.

The Upper and Middle Delaware and its tributary streams are a treasure for Pennsylvanians and other northeast residents who enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming its waters.  According to a recent University of Delaware study, this watershed provides the region $22 billion in economic benefits from activities like hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, and farming.  It’s headwaters are home to threatened and endangered species, including diverse populations of native freshwater mussels that live in the main stem and tributary streams.  The main stem and many of the tributaries also have healthy populations of native trout.

The Delaware River Basin provides drinking water for more than 15 million Americans and delivers 1,803 mgd to public water supplies – 42% of Pennsylvanian residents, 34% of New Jersey residents, 81% of Delaware residents, and 35% of New York residents rely on the River for the water they drink, cook, and bathe in.  That’s about 5% of the Nation’s population from a relatively small watershed, only .4% of the land mass of the continental U.S. The Delaware River is one of the largest water supply basins in the mid-Atlantic, providing more drinking water than any adjacent basin.  For example, the Susquehanna River Basin (27,500 square miles) is more than twice as large as the Delaware River Basin (12,769 square miles) yet the Susquehanna provides 6.2 million people with water, less than half of what the Delaware provides each day. That’s why river historian Richard Albert recounted that the river has been dubbed ?A Little Giant because of the command performance it must meet every day. The value of this water supply has recently been calculated by a University of Delaware study at $3,767,000.

Protecting the Delaware River and its tributary streams and providing this River the correct Pennsylvania designation for this section of the Basin — Exceptional Value Status is needed now.  We urge you to accept this petition and promptly grant this River the protection it rightly deserves.



What Does a Reclassification to Exceptional Value or High Quality Stream Really Mean?
Surface waters in Pennsylvania are designated for specific uses and levels of protection with associated water quality criteria that must be maintained. High Quality (HQ) and Exceptional Value (EV) carry special protections and are the best quality waters in the state. Watersheds that are deemed to meet these rigorous standards, include pure streams that harbor healthy diverse natural aquatic communities.
Many land uses include a discharge to local creeks and waterways. These discharges are currently regulated by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP). Low impact discharges are generally governed by a general permit. All other discharges must obtain an individual permit. The requirements to protect water quality in EV watersheds include a more stringent review of the proposed discharges from new uses or expansions of existing uses. Existing uses are not impacted by the new regulations. Existing uses do not need to obtain new permits and municipalities are not liable for stream cleanups. However, it is likely that most new uses will require an individual permit rather than a general permit to ensure water quality in the EV watershed is protected.
How does the Reclassification to EV or HQ affect…
Development: EV/HQ designations will not stop new development. However, proposed developments must ensure that stormwater run-off during and after construction will not degrade water quality in the designated waterway. There are many currently used techniques for accomplishing the no impact standard. All earth disturbances, regardless of size, that may impact EV/HQ waterways must include an erosion and sedimentation plan and must implement special best management practices to minimize soil erosion and sedimentation to the receiving stream.
Wetlands & Streams: Wetlands that are within the floodplain of an EV stream are considered EV wetlands and are subject to more stringent review of proposed encroachment permits. Some encroachments that would not require permits on undesignated streams, such as fords on private property, utility line crossings, minor road crossings, etc. would require encroachment permits when proposed on an EV stream.
Sewage Treatment Facilities: Existing treatment facilities, and on-lot systems would not be affected by the EV upgrade. Permit renewals for existing facilities would also be exempt. Proposed new or expanded systems would undergo an antidegradation review. New small flow systems that discharge less than 2,000 gallons per day would also undergo the antidegradation review. Alternatives to creek discharge may be required. Proposed projects in HQ/EV watersheds receive a higher priority ranking for state funding of sewage treatment facilities.
On-Lot Septic Systems are not affected by the HQ/EV designations. However, municipal Act 537 Plans that include HQ/EV designated streams must be revised when new on-lot systems are proposed.
Farming: Existing and new small farming operations are exempt from environmental permitting regulations. General farming practices such as plowing, tilling, and pesticide use do not require additional permitting in HQ/EV designated watersheds.
Large farming operations that are classified as Concentrated Animal Operations (CAO) or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) must already meet nutrient management, NDPES permitting and water quality permitting regulations. Existing CAO and CAFO operations and permit renewals for these operations will not require any additional requirements as a result of the EV/HQ designation. New and expanding CAO and CAFO’s must develop and implement a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) regardless of the watershed designation. Current NMP regulations are not affected by the HQ/EV designation however, the proposed revisions would limit phosphorous under certain circumstances. Manure storage facilities over 1 million gallons must be permitted in HQ/EV streams.

Pesticides are regulated PA Department of Agriculture under the Pesticide Control Act. No special restrictions on pesticide use are applicable to HQ/EV watersheds.
Logging: Erosion and sedimentation permits and plans are required for all timber harvest operations involving more than 5,000 square feet of soil disturbance. Special Protection best management practices will be required for HQ/EV receiving waters.
Road construction and maintenance: In HQ/EV watersheds, new road construction will require Special Protection erosion and sedimentation best management practices and the antidegradation review associated with stormwater NDPES permits. Earth disturbances of greater than 5,000 square feet associated with road maintenance must develop and implement an erosion and sedimentation plan. Special protection best management practices will be required in EV/HQ designated watersheds. Winter road maintenance is not affected by the HQ/EV designations.
Bridge and culvert maintenance, repair and replacement require a general encroachment permit. This is unaffected by the HQ/EV designation
Dirt and gravel road maintenance: The State Conservation Commission considers the number of HQ/EV stream miles protected as of 1996 in apportioning Dirt and Gravel Road Maintenance Program funds to participating County Conservation Districts.
Dams, Docks and Boat Ramps: Existing dams, docks and boat ramps are not impacted by the HQ/EV designation. New dams proposed on EV streams must undergo an environmental assessment. New docks, boat ramps and expanded existing docks and ramps require an individual encroachment permit on EV streams.
Waste Management Facilities: Most waste management facilities require a DEP permit. Existing facilities are not affected by an upgrade to HQ/EV status. Presence in an EV watershed may prohibit siting of certain new facilities such as low-level radioactive waste, hazardous wastes and coal refuse disposal facilities. Proposals for locating facilities within an HQ/EV watershed will be considered as part of the overall environmental assessments for new facilities.
Stream Restoration Project permitting is not affected by HQ/EV designations. Most projects will require a general encroachment permit. Larger projects may require an individual permit.
Special Protection Best Management Practices referred to above include:
• Special Design requirements for sedimentation basins
• Lining all channels, collectors and diversions with permanent vegetation, rock, geotextile or other nonerosive materials.
• Designing BMP’s for peak discharge from 5-year frequency storms.
• Immediate stabilization of the site upon completion or temporary cessation of earth disturbance.
• Alternative BMP’s to maintain and protect existing water quality if approved by DEP or County Conservation District

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One Response to “Delaware River is “Exceptional” – Riverkeeper Wants to Make It Official”

  1. brian oram Says:

    With all do respect, this upgrade will result in impacts to on-lot septic and potentially agricultural because of other antidegradation policies being proposed since this article was published.

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