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Brodhead Watershed Nominated as Critical Water Planning Area

By: Edie Stevens                                                                     Fall 2009

(scroll down for January 2011 update.)

When PA DEP started to update the State Water Plan five years ago, (the first update in 25 years), it looked to us like a lot of bean-counting and not much else. Users of more than 10,000 gallons of water per day were required to register their withdrawals – a first in PA. Most did, with much complaining.

Now that the beans have been counted, and we can see where water stresses exist, or might develop, the Brodhead watershed is getting a closer look. When withdrawals and discharges are plugged into a model developed by the US Geological Survey, some areas of the watershed seem to come up short -- potentially unable to support all the water demands made on it.

We've already learned from a close look at the Pocono watershed that when the watershed is fully developed, under current zoning, base flow of the Pocono Creek will decrease by 30%. That means that fish, and the bugs they depend on, may not survive.

Pat Kennedy, Theresa Merli and Edie Stevens traveled to Allentown recently to support the nomination of the Brodhead watershed as a Critical Water Planning Area. A CWPA is an area that preliminary studies suggest needs a closer look. Three watersheds in the Delaware watershed were nominated, the Brodhead among them. One will be selected to go to the next step, development of a Plan to protect the water resources.

Theresa pointed out the strong consensus that exists in Monroe County to plan proactively for future growth and environmental protection. Pat used a personal anecdote to support the need for scientifically sound planning. Edie provided information on the larger amount of forest land in private ownership in the Upper Brodhead and Paradise sub-watersheds and the importance of protecting forests to protect water quality. All urged that the Brodhead watershed be selected to take the next steps, developing the sound science on which good plans are built.

Update - January 2011.

DEP’s Newly Designated Critical Water-Planning Areas to Better Protect Resources Threatened by Water-Use Demands<

January 10, 2011 at 4:00 AM by Gant Team 

Agency Designates Three Water-Planning Areas in the Ohio, Potomac River Basins

HARRISBURG — The Department of Environmental Protection has designated three critical water-planning areas, providing local residents and organizations the opportunity to take a proactive approach to deciding how to use and protect these valuable resources, Secretary John Hanger said.

The three newly designated planning areas include Laurel Hill Creek and Back Creek in the Ohio Basin, and the combined Marsh Creek and Rock Creek watersheds in the Potomac Basin.

“We’re placing this designation on these watersheds because the existing or future demand on them exceeds or threatens to exceed their supply,” Hanger said. “This action paves the way to develop locally driven plans that will protect the water resource, and also protect the public, aquatic life and the environment.”

DEP will work with local critical area advisory committees and the regional water resources committees to develop a voluntary critical-area resource plan for each watershed. Each plan is intended to address the key problems identified in the watershed and will suggest voluntary measures and actions that prioritize resources to ensure an adequate supply of water in the future.

The Statewide Water Resources Committee and the Potomac and Ohio regional water resources committees recommended designating these planning areas pursuant to Act 220 of 2002, the Water Resources Planning Act. The law established a Statewide Water Resources Committee and six regional committees that guided DEP in developing the first updated state water plan in 26 years, which DEP completed in 2009.

In addition, four watersheds—Little Lehigh Creek and Brodhead Creek in the Delaware Basin, and Sugar Creek and Spring Creek in the Upper/Middle Susquehanna Basin—have been identified as needing continued review and further evaluation over the next year. Based on the outcome of the evaluation, the statewide committee will determine whether to recommend designating these additional watersheds as critical water-planning areas.

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P.O. Box 339 Henryville, PA 18332 - Phone: (570) 839-1120