Coons, Carper, Pitts, Carney reintroduce bill to widen protected area of White Clay Creek watershed

Bill would add sections of the watershed in Delaware and Pennsylvania to Wild and Scenic Rivers designation with no additional cost to taxpayers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) and U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.-16) reintroduced bills in the Senate and House on Wednesday to add approximately nine miles of White Clay Creek and its tributaries to the existing Wild and Scenic Rivers designation for the waterway. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Rep. John Carney (D-Del.-AL) are cosponsors of the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River Expansion Act, which was originally introduced in 2009 and would come at no cost to taxpayers.

“White Clay Creek is a gem that shines brightly in Delaware’s diverse ecosystem, and we must work to protect its beauty for future generations,” Senator Coons said. “When I was a child growing up in New Castle, I used to spend considerable time in the White Clay Creek watershed, and I know what a great outdoor experience is for children and families. I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for coming together in a bipartisan way to reintroduce this important legislation that conserves our shared waterways and wildlife.”

"I'm proud to again introduce legislation to protect new areas of the White Clay Creek watershed,” Rep. Pitts said. “This bill means a lot to me because of wonderful memories of enjoying the creek with my family. With Senator Chris Coons working with me in the Senate, I think we can get our bipartisan legislation through Congress very soon."

The bill will expand the original designation to include two small stream sections that were omitted from the original Wild and Scenic Rivers designation, including a 1.6-mile stretch of Lamborn Run in Delaware that was originally omitted due to its consideration as an option for a dam to supply drinking water for northern Delaware. It has since been removed from consideration and New Castle County is supportive of the addition of the section to the designation. The bill also includes a 7.4-mile stretch of stream in Pennsylvania’s New Garden Township that was originally omitted due to its consideration for a dam. That consideration has since been withdrawn and the Township is now supportive of the designation.

“This important piece of legislation will help safeguard one of Delaware’s great outdoor treasures,” Senator Carper said. “Through preserving nine additional miles of White Clay Creek and its tributaries, this measure will help ensure that Delawareans will continue to enjoy this waterway’s natural, cultural and recreational benefits for generations to come.”

“White Clay Creek is a source of clean drinking water and other natural resources, while serving as the home to an array of different birds, fish and other wildlife,” Congressman Carney said. “The Wild and Scenic Rivers designation is critical to preserving the future health and vibrancy of White Clay Creek. In the coming months, I’m hopeful that Congress will give this bipartisan legislation the consideration it deserves.”

The bill has earned the strong support of local communities.

“This legislation completes the task of ensuring watershed-wide protection to the White Clay Creek and its tributaries,” Kevin Donnelly, the district coordinator for the New Castle County Conservation District, said. “The passage of this important legislation can provides real benefits to the nearly 100,000 people who live within the White Clay Creek Watershed by protecting the local drinking water supply for tens of thousands of people and countless businesses who live and work in the City of Newark and New Castle County; safeguarding important habitat for fish and wildlife species while preserving treasured historic sites and scenic vistas throughout the 69,000 acre watershed; and boosting the local economy by attracting visitors to the watershed and providing jobs for the employees of  companies whose businesses depend on the health and vitality of a free flowing and high quality White Clay Creek.”

“The White Clay Creek Steering Committee is hopeful that the reintroduced expansion bill will be enacted during this session of Congress,” Shane Morgan, the management plan coordinator for the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic Program, said. “If passed, the Act would add approximately nine miles of river segments to the existing 190 miles already protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers designation with no associated federal cost. It is a win-win for both the environment, as it provides more comprehensive protection for the watershed; and its residents, who treasure this scenic valley for its recreational and natural resources, and rely on it for clean drinking water.”

In 2000, Congress designated a large majority of White Clay Creek and its tributaries as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Then-Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) was the lead sponsor for the Senate bill and Representative Mike Castle (R-Del.-AL) was the lead sponsor for the House version. This marked the first time a whole watershed, rather than individual river segments, had been designated into the system. The proposal to expand the designation was led by former Senator Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) in the Senate and Representative Pitts in the House.

The 69,000-acre White Clay Creek watershed is home to 33 species of mammals, 21 species of fish, 27 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 90 species of birds. White Clay Creek is also stocked with brown and rainbow trout and is an important resource for fishermen. Protected land in the watershed provides recreational opportunities for hikers, bikers, birders, hunters, and others. White Clay Creek and the Cockeysville aquifer that lies beneath portions of the watershed are important sources of drinking water for over 128,000 citizens in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The bill passed the Senate in the 112th Congress by a voice vote, but failed to get out of committee in the House.  Learn more on Senator Coons Website.

Additional information can be found on Congressman Joe Pitts website