environmental and cultural resources
This section highlights the vast array of environmental and cultural resources found within the White Clay Creek watershed. Included are the important and outstanding values that make this river eligible for designation into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This management plan aims to protect and conserve these outstanding values. Botanical Resources
The intrinsic botanical value of the White Clay Creek watershed is largely due to the many plants and plant communities that survive here, having virtually disappeared from many nearby river systems. White Clay Creek is in many ways a botanical oasis in a desert of creeping sprawl.
The complex geology of the watershed has produced a variety of soil types that support a diversity of native plants. The study area contains rich flora, comprising some 60 tree and shrub species, more than 20 ferns and more than 200 wildflowers, including nine native orchids.
The trees contribute most to the area's character, although the forest mix has changed since the chestnuts were blighted in the 1920s. Now, tall tulip trees, stark sycamores, massive beeches and oaks define the landscape. A fall shower of acorns, hickory nuts and black walnuts often pelts area roads and driveways.
ome of the watershed's plants represent rare species. In a survey of the White Clay Creek Preserve, 24 Delaware state "species of special concern were identified, distributed fairly evenly between wetland, successional and woodland habitats. In the Pennsylvania portion of the watershed, one often sees species considered unusual elsewhere in Chester County.
Delaware has no formal listing of endangered, threatened or rare plant species, but Pennsylvania does. The Commonwealth has found three endangered, one threatened and two rare plant species in the watershed. The endangered species are the leather flower (Clematis viorna), the tawny ironweed (Veronica glauca) and elephant's foot (Elephantopus carolinianus). The threatened species is the fall witch grass (Digitaria cognatum). The rare species are the puttyroot orchid (Aplectrum hyemale) and the cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor).
Fish and Wildlife Resources Old fields, mature woodlands, streams, freshwater marshes, seeps and swamps, vernal pools, wooded floodplains, thickets and glades support a profusion of birds and animals. An estimated 93 species of birds nest in the watershed. Many are neotropical migrants that breed within the deep, continuous forests, hiding from predators among the trees. Migrants include the hooded and cerulean warblers, the latter a rare northern species that breeds in Delaware only in the Piedmont Plateau section of the White Clay Creek. Other neotropical birds found here are thrushes, vireos, orioles and grosbeaks. In addition to the nesters, more than 100 other species of birds live and feed in the area, or settle briefly as they skim the busy Atlantic flyway.
ird life follows the seasons in the White Clay valley. Field ornithology groups often spot the "big (pileated) woodpecker and hear the distinctive call of the barred owl. They glimpse red-winged blackbirds in the fields, and great blue herons along the creek. A bird-box installation program has attracted a healthy population of Eastern bluebirds, and the broad-winged hawk is a watershed resident as well. A famous avian landmark is the eerie flocking of vultures to cluster in the trees along the East Branch of the White Clay in Landenberg.
Thirty-three species of small mammals live in the watershed. Beavers, recent arrivals, can sometimes be seen swimming in the creek. More common sightings include opossum, raccoon, groundhog and red and gray foxes. Eastern gray squirrels, Eastern cottontail rabbits and whitetail deer are hunted every year. The big-eyed young of the nocturnal flying squirrel are occasionally discovered by local folk when females nest in their houses. On summer evenings, bats---red, big brown, little brown, hoary and Eastern Pipistrel---flutter skyward from daytime perches.
Twenty-seven species of reptiles and amphibians live in the watershed, among them the rare Muhlenberg's (bog) turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii), which was recently added to the list of threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Spring arrives with the piping choruses of spring peepers, woodfrogs and American toads. The rare long-tailed salamander breeds in clean feeder streams and springs throughout the watershed. Also rare, the four-toed salamander breeds in local freshwater marshes.
The waters of the White Clay Creek support some 21 species of fish. This is Delaware's premier trout-fishing stream, stocked annually by both Delaware and Pennsylvania. Freshwater fisherman cast in its pools and riffles throughout the year. Although water quality is somewhat degraded downstream due to the impact of various human activities, the good health of the upstream portions of the creek is demonstrated by clouds of various insects, including mayflies and stoneflies (see Appendix for White Clay Watershed Association (WCWA) Stream Watch Program).
Flow conditions in White Clay Creek vary widely among drought, normal and flood. Flows measured at the City of Newark can vary between 15 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 10 million gallons per day (mgd) (a few inches deep) during droughts to 14,000 cfs or 9,000 mgd (15 feet deep) during 100 year flood events. Normal flows range between 30 and 100 cfs, which is ideal for fishing.
Existing Water Supply New Castle County The White Clay Creek watershed is a major source of drinking water for the residents of New Castle County. The major water purveyors are the City of Newark, Artesian Water Company and United Water Delaware. The utilities obtain water from surface, ground and interconnected supplies. Surface water from White Clay Creek accounts for 33 mgd of the overall production of water supply from the watershed. Minimum flow requirements (DRBC, 7Q10) are in place for aquatic habitat protection purposes along White Clay Creek at the surface-water intakes for the City of Newark and United Water Delaware. Groundwater supplies provide up to 1.8 mgd of water to the City of Newark from five wells in the watershed. The Artesian Water Company operates six wells which provide up to 1.9 mgd in the Cockeysville Formation near Hockessin. Additionally, a maximum of 6 mgd can be provided to the Artesian Water Company from a Pennsylvania interconnection with the Chester Water Authority at Limestone Road. Table 3 provides a summary of existing public water supplies in the New Castle County portion of the White Clay Creek watershed.
Existing Water Supply Chester County The White Clay Creek watershed also provides drinking water for the residents of Chester County. Groundwater is the primary water-supply source, for which the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not issue water-supply allocations. Table 4 provides a summary of existing water supply for the White Clay Creek watershed located in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The maximum supply capacities of the systems are not known.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) have established formal water quality goals for their respective portions of White Clay Creek. PADEP goals are based on the traditional use approach, and they apply to water supply, aquatic life and recreation. Water uses to be protected are established for each stream, as well as specific water quality criteria necessary to protect these uses. These criteria are used to establish waste-discharge permit limits.
(EV) The Exceptional Value Waters designation refers to streams that are relatively pristine, with little or no development or access, and constitute an outstanding natural resource. The rest of the East Branch protected use designation is "Cold Water Fisheries (CWF). This protected use is for the maintenance and/or propagation of fish species, including the family Salmonidae (trout) and additional flora and fauna which are indigenous to a coldwater habitat.
he Middle and West branches have "Trout Stocking protected use designations. This protected use is for the maintenance of stocked trout from February 15 to July 31, and for maintenance and propagation of fish species and additional flora and fauna which are indigenous to warm-water habitat.
located on the East Fork and maintained by the Stroud Water Research Center. Hypotheses and methods developed on White Clay Creek have been tested and applied in rivers and streams throughout North America. The National Science Foundation designated the experimental watershed an "Experimental Ecological Reserve in recognition of the site as an outstanding example of a Piedmont stream ecosystem.
NREC goals classify White Clay Creek from the Delaware state line to the dam at Curtis Paper as "exceptional recreational or ecological significance waters (ERES). DNREC acknowledges as a goal the restoration of these waters, to the maximum practicable extent, to their natural condition. To achieve this goal DNREC must control, reduce or remove existing pollution, and divert new pollution away from the ERES waters.
In Delaware, Lamborn Run serves as the reference stream (the area's most pristine stream, by which the quality of others is judged) for the entire State of Delaware's water-quality monitoring efforts. It should be noted that recent benthic studies indicate the upper reaches of Lamborn Run are degraded due to high nutrient loads from water fowl and stream erosion.
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) goals are consistent with Pennsylvania goals. Where standards differ between DRBC and a state, the more stringent standard prevails. The water quality goals of Pennsylvania and DRBC differ from those of Delaware. A technical evaluation of the watershed as a whole has been initiated in order to determine appropriate levels of control for both point sources and nonpoint sources of pollution. Both states, DRBC, EPA, the Water Resources Agency for New Castle County (WRANCC), the Chester County Planning Commission, the Chester County Conservation District, U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey are participating in this activity.
Levels of the bacteria Enterococcus exceed the Delaware water-quality criterion approximately half of the time over the entire Delaware portion of the White Clay Creek watershed. Consequently, people who swim in untreated water from the creek face an increased risk of gastroenteritis. Bacteria in the stream can come from agricultural nonpoint sources, urban runoff, wildlife, malfunctioning septic systems and publicly owned treatment systems.
The creek's levels of dissolved oxygen and its temperature are apparently able to support fish, aquatic life and wildlife. The reproducing trout population in the upper reaches of the East Branch strongly indicates high water quality. However, data collected by the White Clay Watershed Association suggests that there is a decline in water quality as one proceeds from the headwaters down into Delaware (See Appendix). Since 1991 the White Clay Watershed Association (WCWA), with the guidance of the Stroud Water Research Center, has run a volunteer Stream Watch Program in White Clay Creek. The Stream Watch program and protocols are now viewed as models throughout the region and the country because of the breadth and scope of their biological survey.
The White Clay Creek watershed has been occupied by various peoples for more than 10,000 years. The indigenous Lenni-Lenapes or Delaware Indians lived along the banks of White Clay Creek, where abundant game and fertile lands provided the resources for intermittent village settlements.
European settlements by Dutch and Swedes began around 1625-1650 in Delaware and Pennsylvania. Between 1680 and 1705, land grants from the King of England were made to William Penn, who chartered the states of Delaware and Pennsylvania. Some of the first settlers to the White Clay area were the English, Irish and Scots, who were drawn to America by promises of peace, religious freedom and abundant land resources.
From the beginning, agriculture was an important industry in the rural and sparsely populated area. Early settlers cleared the land and planted wheat or corn or developed grass meadows for cows. Today, dairy farms, horse farms and mushroom farms dominate the local agricultural landscape.
Early settlers in Delaware built the first grist and saw mills on White Clay Creek in the late 17th century. The first grist and saw mills in Pennsylvania were built at the beginning of the 18th century. Water-powered production of paper, cotton and woolen goods was underway by the first few decades of the 19th century. Most of the early mills were small rural operations on farms, but some, such as the Curtis paper mill, Dean woolen mill, Roseville cotton factory and Landenberg woolen mills, were substantial businesses. Around the time of the Civil War the railroads arrived, bringing a ready supply of coal, which allowed many water-powered mills to be converted to the more reliable steam power. Still, many of the smaller mills continued to utilize water power well into the 20th century. Mills were located every mile or so along the mainstems of the branches of the creek and its tributaries - there were more than 70 mill sites in all. Mill sites were selected by the ease with which the necessary head and fall of water could be obtained. The better the site, the shorter the mill race. Early mills were a major influence on watershed development, as roads were built to reach them and small towns grew around some of them.
In the mid-19th century, populations increased and the first signs of urban sprawl crept outward from Philadelphia toward rural Chester County and northern Delaware. Such villages as Avondale, Landenberg and the Town of Newark began to serve as important commercial areas. The railroad influenced the development of these areas as mills capitalized on improved transportation. Inns, taverns and retail businesses flourished. With the advent of the automobile in the 20th century, settlement patterns in the White Clay Creek watershed began to change. Commercial centers and residential developments sprang up close to major highways and around the City of Newark, while a considerable part of the watershed remained rural.
Historic and architecturally important sites abound in the watershed. There are eight sites in Pennsylvania, including Primitive Hall and Lunn's Tavern, listed on the National Register of Historic Places (the federal listing of significant historic properties). Many other Pennsylvania properties are considered eligible for the national register, but have not been nominated. In Delaware, 30 properties representing the fields of commerce, architecture, religion and agriculture are listed on the national register.
Open Space and Recreation
The White Clay Creek watershed offers regional residents outstanding recreational opportunities. Fishing, hiking and jogging are three of the watershed's most popular sports. In addition, White Clay Creek is commonly used for swimming, and the valley for bird watching, picnicking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, skating, sledding, photography, nature observation and limited deer hunting. Because of the small size of watershed streams, canoeing is limited and not very popular. The only truly suitable canoeing area is the mainstem of the White Clay Creek in Delaware, and that area is limited by flow conditions.
White Clay Creek is the most heavily stocked and most heavily used put-and-take trout stream in the State of Delaware. More than 18,000 brown and rainbow trout were stocked along the White Clay in Delaware from March through April of 1993. They represent 68% of all of the stocked trout in the state. The White Clay Creek is also the most popular fly-fishing stream in the State of Delaware.
Several regulations govern fishing in the Delaware portion of the watershed. The half mile from the state line south is the only segment in the state limited to flies only. Here, the daily catch limit is four fish per person. The lower four-mile stretch of the White Clay Creek is open for all kinds of trout fishing. The daily catch limit here is six fish per person. There is no limit, anywhere along the Delaware section of White Clay Creek, to the size or number of fish that can be caught and released.
In 1993, 22,800 brown and rainbow trout were stocked in the Pennsylvania portion of the White Clay Creek. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocked 21,200 of these in the East Branch, Middle Branch and mainstem. The White Clay Creek Fly Fishers stocked 1,600 trout in the Middle Branch and in the Preserve.
Open space is a major recreation element in the White Clay Creek watershed. A cursory inventory found that 10% (or 7,096 acres) of the watershed is protected open space, suitable for a variety of recreational activities. More than two-thirds of the protected lands are in Delaware: they are managed by DNREC, New Castle County Department of Parks and Recreation, and the City of Newark. In Pennsylvania, open space is managed by DCNR and a few townships. The watershed features parks of several kinds. The White Clay Creek Preserve, managed by both Delaware and Pennsylvania, is maintained as a natural area accommodating passive recreation. Other parks are designed for heavier use, offering ball fields, basketball courts and picnic facilities.