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resource management and protection issues

In the context of resource management and protection issues, land and water resources have been combined under the heading of natural resources. This was done because the two resource types share many of the same issues. Often, management strategies practiced on the land affect water resources, and vice versa. A good example of this is the issue of erosion. The conversion of land to impervious cover increases runoff rates and results in streambank erosion problems. The increase in sediment affects fish and other aquatic species. Conversely, when stream channels are modified by channelization, downstream riparian vegetation may be damaged by changes in the stream hydrology.

Natural Resources Issues

Land Use Perhaps the overriding threat to the integrity of the watershed is the trend called "suburban sprawl. Problems inevitably follow people's movement into less congested rural areas with open space, wildlife, high-quality waters, forests, fields and other amenities. The White Clay Creek watershed, particularly within Pennsylvania, is just such a suburbanizing area, in transition from rural to urban. Unplanned regional or community development and site design standards which are not sensitive to environmental resources can result in dramatic loss of the very values that attracted people to the area in the first place.

The greatest imminent threats from suburbanization are non-point source pollution, flooding, erosion and loss of fish and wildlife habitat. Erosion, in particular, challenges both land and water resources. In addition to environmental concerns, erosion results in loss of valuable topsoil and can ravage streambanks, threatening houses, fences and other human investments.

Agricultural practices and recreational activities within the watershed also contribute to soil erosion. Prime agricultural soils are being lost due to such improper management practices as neglecting to plant cover crops on fallow land, and plowing against the contours of the land. Mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking in areas with steep slopes exacerbate erosion problems. When fishermen trample the streamside vegetation that holds streambanks in place, they also contribute to erosion. Best management practices (BMPs) should be implemented throughout the watershed to minimize soil loss through erosion. The use of vegetative buffers along streams would assist in trapping soil before it enters surface waters.

When viewed collectively and cumulatively, the adverse impacts from suburbanization on water quality and habitat values are dramatic. The adverse impacts are the result of small but widespread development and unwise land-use practices, including: application of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers at residences, golf courses, parks, farms, forests and other sites; cutting of streamside vegetation; use of improper or failed on-site sanitation systems; filling of floodplains and wetlands; faulty installation or maintenance of utility and transportation facilities; inadequate control of stormwater runoff, proliferation of impervious surfaces and reduction of groundwater infiltration rates; and so on.

An increase in impervious surfaces plagues the entire watershed. According to the Water Resources Agency for New Castle County Geographic Information System (GIS), 19% of the White Clay Creek watershed is currently under impervious cover. Recent work by DNREC indicates that the biological quality of streams in the Delaware Piedmont declines appreciably once watersheds reach 10% to 15% impervious coverage. White Clay Creek's impervious coverage, by sub-watershed, is as follows: White Clay Creek above Newark, 7%; White Clay Creek below Newark, 43%; Mill Creek, 27%; Pike Creek, 26%; Middle Run, 9%.

The current uncoordinated patterns of development within the watershed could be corrected by better intermunicipal coordination. A future land-use plan for the watershed would be a tool for improving intermunicipal coordination. It is desirable to protect the quality and quantity of the land's natural resource base, because natural resources are important to the long-term economic and environmental viability of the area, and to the health and welfare of the residents.

Protection of Floodplains, Wetlands and Riparian Areas Floodplains, wetlands and riparian vegetation zones are being adversely affected by land development. Wetlands are being filled, riparian vegetation is being cut down and there are encroachments in floodplains throughout the watershed. The cumulative result is lessening of biodiversity.

Among the problems is an inconsistency in the municipal regulations designed to protect sensitive areas. In addition, development permits for projects in critical habitats are not well coordinated among federal, state and local governments. There is also need for more environmentally sensitive construction and engineering techniques, such as soil bio-engineering, in these areas.

Protection of Woodlands Large interior forests are essential to the protection of many species of mammals and birds that need large blocks of forest to survive. Neotropical migrant birds, which nest in the White Clay Creek watershed, are among the species dependent on continuous woodlands. Landowners must come to understand how proper management practices ensure a healthy forest system. A system of interconnected public and private forested areas throughout the watershed must be promoted.

Decreasing Biodiversity / Protection of Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species Biodiversity within the region is decreasing, as evidenced by the rising number of rare, threatened and endangered species in the White Clay Creek watershed. The watershed provides some of the remaining habitats in this part of Pennsylvania and Delaware for many of these imperiled species. It is essential that the remaining habitats within this watershed be protected.

Aquifer Protection Withdrawals must be balanced against aquifer recharge rates. Reasonable rates must be set for pumping from the aquifer to guard against overpumping. Overpumping would decrease the amount of groundwater available for stream recharge during the dry months. A severe loss of baseflow in streams during the dry months would result in a loss of many species' habitats. Riparian vegetation would also suffer. Policies should be developed that increase the infiltration rates of stormwater into the aquifer.

Because of their porous formations, watershed aquifers are susceptible to contamination from land uses. The Cockeysville Marble formations, in particular, are very susceptible to damage from landfills, hazardous waste facilities, waste-oil collection sites, transfer stations, parking lots and high-density developments. These land uses should be prohibited on and near Cockeysville Marble outcrops.

New Castle County Water Supply Issues urface water supplies in the White Clay Creek watershed in New Castle County have been deemed "unreliable by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). The drought of 1995 further highlighted the watershed's vulnerability to water supply deficits and the need for an additional water supply alternative in New Castle County. The State of Delaware and the Water Resources Agency for New Castle County (WRANCC) have been studying water needs and developing alternatives for achieving an additional supply.

The Water Resources Agency for New Castle County's WATER 2000 plan recommended the development of an additional 20-mgd water-supply reservoir in New Castle County. DRBC adopted portions of WATER 2000, including its proposal for a reservoir site at Churchman's Marsh or Thompson Station.

WRANCC proceeded with plans to develop the 20-mgd water-supply reservoir and sought approval from the Army Corps of Engineers for project construction. The Corps required an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS process considered a variety of alternative future water-supply projects for New Castle County, including reservoirs, pipelines, wastewater reuse, desalinization and aquifer storage and recovery. The EIS purpose is to select the most reliable alternative to meet the 20-mgd deficit with the least environmental, social and economic impact.

The project management committee for the Water Supply Plan for New Castle County is conducting a screening analysis for the reservoir alternatives. Environmental field studies resulted in the elimination of the Churchman's Marsh and Corner Ketch alternatives. Focus then turned to the remaining reservoir alternative at Thompson Station. However, in the spring of 1997, both New Castle County and Artesian Water Company withdrew funding support for a Thompson Station Reservoir alternative. The State of Delaware withdrew additional funding for continuing environmental studies at the reservoir site. Studies at the reservoir site were suspended pending the completion of a re-evaluation of water-supply needs in New Castle County. It is not clear whether the EIS process will be completed, or whether New Castle County and the State of Delaware will pursue the other viable alternatives for meeting the water-supply needs of New Castle County.

Chester County Water Supply There are no surface-water intakes for public water supply in the Chester County portion of the White Clay Creek watershed. At present, groundwater sources appear to be adequate to meet the needs of community and individual water supplies. However, as development continues in the region, the need for an allocation of the surface waters of White Clay Creek cannot be ruled out. No detailed study has been conducted to determine the comprehensive need for public water supply in the White Clay Creek watershed and southern Chester County. A water resources management plan addressing such issues will be prepared by the Chester County Water Resources Authority (CWA) in the near future.

One public water supply issue in the White Clay Creek watershed and southern Chester County is the major treated-water transmission main operated by the CWA. This main extends from the treatment works near the Pine Grove Dam on Octoraro Creek in eastern Lancaster County, all the way across southern Chester County into Delaware County and the City of Chester. The CWA has a relatively small number of direct retail customers in Chester County, and provides bulk water sales to institutions and other water suppliers in Chester and New Castle counties.

The CWA has surface-water allocations of 30 mgd from the Susquehanna River, and 30 mgd from the Octoraro Watershed above the Pine Grove Dam. Both sources are located entirely within the Susquehanna River Basin. The water used by many CWA customers represents a net interbasin transfer of 60 mgd from the Susquehanna Basin to the Delaware Basin. While the CWA has the capacity to serve a much larger population in southern Chester County than it does at present, this inter-basin transfer of water is being scrutinized by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and others concerned with water-resource management.

Water Quality Goals The water quality goals established for White Clay Creek in Delaware are higher than those established for Pennsylvania. All participants in the Christina Basin Management Program should continue to try to resolve the issue of inconsistent water quality goals between Pennsylvania and Delaware.

In-Stream Flow Maintenance and Stormwater Management It is important to maintain adequate stream flows during warm, dry weather for water withdrawal, habitat maintenance, and aquatic fisheries. Due to steep topography in the upstream portions of the White Clay Creek watershed, storms produce runoff which rapidly produces hydrologic peaks; then those high discharges pass quickly through the watershed. Base flows are maintained through groundwater discharges. Wetlands along the floodplains are a source of constant recharge through their storage and release of rainwater.

Maintenance of base flows for aquatic habitat, fisheries and water-supply withdrawal purposes can be accomplished in the short term through open space, groundwater and wetland conservation programs. Stormwater management techniques that enhance groundwater recharge are necessary to achieve this goal. DNREC has established a multi-agency task force which concluded that the 7Q10 is adequate as a minimum instream flow standard to protect water quality and aquatic habitats along White Clay Creek at the United Water Delaware and City of Newark intakes.

In the lower half of the watershed, water is lost when it is drawn from wells and drained out of the watershed via sewers. In addition to wells, water is withdrawn directly from White Clay Creek and drained out of the watershed. Most of Northern New Castle County is serviced by one wastewater treatment plant that discharges to the Delaware Estuary. So White Clay Creek, even though it normally has abundant rainfall and copious aquifers, is severely challenged during dry weather to deliver the water supplies users need.

Cultural Resource Issues The White Clay Creek watershed contains a wide variety of significant and unique cultural resources, all owing their existence to White Clay Creek. Many parts of the watershed remain relatively unspoiled by modern residential and industrial development, offering a quality of life difficult to match in the Mid-Atlantic region. However, many cultural resources in the White Clay Creek watershed are threatened, and some are being lost to development, neglect and ignorance. Mill sites, historic bridges and archaeological sites may disappear or be aesthetically damaged by insensitive development. Other resources are being allowed to disintegrate and eventually to be lost. It is urgently important to identify cultural resources threatened by development and infrastructure improvements. The watershed has been continuously inhabited for more than 10,000 years. It is therefore essential that a comprehensive study of the culturally significant resources be undertaken, to identify and document them, and to promote their protection.

Identification Under the Wild and Scenic River designation. All cultural resources should be documented for future study and to maintain the watershed's "sense of place.

Registration The general population is not sufficiently aware of the extent of the watershed's cultural resources. Some landowners don't understand the importance of the cultural resources on their own property. Responsible stewardship will require greater public awareness of resources and their significance. Official recognition would encourage local zoning protection for cultural resources.

Information about officially recognized cultural resources of local, regional and national significance should be accessible to the public. Public suggestions favored designating a single publicly accessible site, such as a museum or library, where collections of documents, artifacts and memorabilia would be housed. Information housed there might spark interest and awareness and form a base for further research and for educational and interpretive programs. The archive site could also serve as a "trail head for a self-guided regional tour.

Treatment/Preservation The ultimate preservation goal is the maintenance of the watershed's cultural resources in a manner that would sustain their current form and integrity. Key actions should be coordinated and local zoning made uniform throughout the watershed to protect culturally significant sites. Criteria are needed to guide the consistent designation and management of cultural resources. For example, a local ordinance could require that an applicant for land development provide a plan for evaluating and conserving eligible resources. This would not strip the landowner's property rights, but it would consideration of cultural resources in land-use planning. The cumulative effect of such an ordinance would be the promotion of responsible stewardship.

ocal zoning ordinances, particularly in Pennsylvania, must be coordinated with county, state and/or federal guidelines to ensure consistent treatment, and planning and zoning boards must become more attuned to cultural resource protection. For example, Pennsylvania township planning and historic commissions should be familiar with the "Archeological Site Categorization Criteria outlined by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The City of Newark Historic Preservation Regulations might serve as a model for municipal regulatory bodies. The majority of historic architectural resources in the White Clay Creek watershed are houses associated with agriculture and industry, with strong potential for preservation. Buffer zones should be created for significant or remarkable cultural resources, and zoning should be sensitive to site aesthetics and context.

Demolition Some governments in the watershed do not require historic commission review for demolition permits. Without such a process and without the formulation of alternatives that could avoid their loss, cultural resources can disappear without notice. The existing permitting process should be extended to require demolition permits based on historic commission or planning board review in order to promote preservation of registered cultural resources. However, the only reasonable treatment for some archeological sites may be the careful documentation of their existence.

There does not seem to be a consistent mechanism for ensuring that government projects, particularly those financed without federal monies, do not contribute to the loss of cultural resources throughout the watershed. Departments and entities not directly charged with cultural resource preservation do not always include cultural resource protection considerations in their planning. A specific example raised at one of the public meetings was the possibility that the historic Landenburg Bridge might be lost during a planned road-widening project.

Government-Funded Projects Government-funded projects within the watershed should require a cultural resource impact analysis before inception. All cultural resource inventories should be utilized in this review. Ideally, significant or remarkable resources would be left undisturbed by government-funded projects, but when this is not possible, projects should mitigate their impact on the resources. Qualified researchers should be allowed a limited amount of time to study cultural resource areas to be disturbed or destroyed by government-funded projects. Discovery of previously unknown cultural resources during the course of such projects should trigger a sufficient delay in the project to allow a determination of significance by qualified researchers. If the cultural resources discovered are determined to be significant or remarkable, then the project should be altered to mitigate its impact on the resources.

Living History/Folklife The intangible cultural resources embodied in the living history and memories of local residents are significant. They attest to the existence of tangible, physically identifiable resources, present-day culture, and the intangible quality of the life of the watershed, and they should be documented. Information gleaned from oral histories can be used as a guide to managing the identified resources.

Education Access to culturally and historically significant sites and structures can help awaken public interest in the unique cultural characteristics of the watershed area. Educational initiatives might include the establishment of a watershed museum or library, the publication of self-guided tour brochures and pamphlets on cultural topics and the development of educational and interpretive programs.

Recreational Resource Issues Generally, open space and the active and passive recreational opportunities in the watershed are considered adequate according to guidelines established by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The adequacy of the open space and recreational facilities, however, is often challenged by the public. In fact, the regional balance of active and passive recreational lands does appear to be weighted in favor of the population centers, despite the need for such lands in the watershed's rural and moderately developed areas.

Open Space and Recreation There is a need for active recreational opportunities within the watershed, but new recreation areas may have a detrimental effect on the remaining "wild and primitive lands. Local residents do not want to see development within White Clay Creek State Park (formerly Walter S. Carpenter State Park), but do support increased use of its trails.

Some park users felt that the "experience of nature was gone or disappearing, while those seeking developed recreation opportunities felt that the present facilities should be expanded beyond NRPA standards. This issue must be addressed by both states at all levels of government, because the entire watershed is affected. Future action should include regionally balanced recreation opportunities that include developed active areas as well as undeveloped natural areas, and wild and primitive areas. Recreation regulations must be better enforced to prevent adverse impacts to resources.

Greenways linking Pennsylvania townships would provide open space and recreation opportunities while protecting riparian areas within the watershed and improving water quality downstream in Delaware. Although an open space plan for Chester County recommends protection of stream valleys, there is no mandatory or encompassing plan to implement recommendations county-wide at the township level. It is important that all levels of government in Pennsylvania work together to implement a coordinated open-space acquisition and management plan. Chester County has several grant programs administered by the Parks Department that enable municipalities and conservancies to acquire open space for preservation and/or recreation. Delaware has an active greenway program administered by DNREC, Division of Parks & Recreation. Several greenways have already been established in the White Clay Creek valley, linking parks, wildlife refuges, historic and natural sites and other open-space areas. Trails It is often difficult to find information about the location of trails, access points, trail lengths, parking and other pertinent details. A coordinated, user-friendly system of trail marking should be developed incorporating enough signs to permit users to follow the trail but not clutter the land with too much signage. Such a system should utilize blazes on trees or small signs on posts. Trail restrictions should be prominently displayed at trailheads and intersections. Each trailhead should display maps, and clear, informative, giveaway fold-up trail maps should be readily available. A trail-use guide would help divert some trail users to underutilized trails and other areas.

Most watershed trails were not designed to accommodate the wide variety of today's trail activities. Horseback riders and off-road bicyclists have now joined hikers and nature-trail walkers. Some trails cannot support multiple uses, so conflicts and concern for the safety of trail users have become increasingly common.

A complete inventory of existing trails should be undertaken, providing data on numbers, routes, length, and conditions of all trails. An integrated system of trails, avoiding sensitive natural and cultural resources, should connect publicly owned lands within the watershed. This system should have trails to provide for all trail-based activities. Bicycling Both recreational bicycle riders and commuters use the roads in the White Clay Creek watershed. Bikers favor roads with the fewest cars, which tend to be narrow, two-lane and twisting, often with blind curves. Road shoulders range from nonexistent to wide and smooth. There are hills with both short and steep, and long and slow grades. More "Share the Road signs are needed to remind motorists to watch for cyclists. Where appropriate, as on paved roads commonly used by cyclists, adequate road shoulders should be paved and routinely maintained.

Mountain biking or off-road biking is a relatively new recreational activity in this area, and the demand for off-road biking is likely to increase as these bikes outpace others in sales. There are few mountain-bike areas in Delaware, and many trails do not allow this activity. A loop or network of trails connecting public lands within the watershed could be developed to accommodate mountain-bike riding. With some education on trail use and etiquette, hiking, bicycling and mountain biking could comfortably coexist. Horseback Riding Horseback riding has always been popular in the watershed, and it must be accommodated in a way that will not harm the environment. Equestrians' concerns include the accessibility and suitability of bridle paths, and the closing of certain previously available trails.

Hunting The White Clay Creek watershed provides a variety of hunting opportunities in both Delaware and Pennsylvania, although hunting on public lands is currently limited to the White Clay Creek Preserve and White Clay Creek State Park. Opportunities for hunting in Chester and New Castle counties have declined due to expanding development, so hunters from these areas tend to use large undeveloped tracts elsewhere. The states, as well as private landowners, are interested in reducing the deer population. Hunters can continue to play a key role in deer herd management. As the deer-hunting seasons differ between Delaware and Pennsylvania, the state lines in the White Clay Creek Preserve should be clearly marked with signs warning recreationists that hunters may be nearby. The states should consider coordinating their deer-hunting seasons within the watershed so that the deer won't move from one state to another to escape hunters. Currently, more deer roam the watershed than it can support, and hunters are a good control. Additional lands should be made available for hunting. The states should work with landowners to help ensure a safe and effective hunt. The states should work toward consistency in hunting regulations within the watershed. Each state has limited staff overseeing its park land, and park agencies do not receive compensation for hunting on their lands. To administer the hunting season, state park staff have to set aside other responsibilities at these times. Both states should consider adopting hunting fees and using hunters as volunteers to help offset the administrative burden of hunting on state park lands. Fishing The White Clay Creek watershed provides many opportunities for fishing. Water quality is the most important factor in sustaining a healthy and viable fish population. Each spring, both states stock White Clay Creek for a special trout season. While fishing along White Clay Creek appears to be sporadic, the number of fishermen dramatically increases during April, when the creek is stocked. With fish habitat and production largely dependent on water quality, siltation is thought to be the worst problem threatening the fishery resources of White Clay Creek and its tributaries. Siltation is evident in the sandbar formations and in noticeably shallower depths in some areas. Aggressive enforcement of sediment control requirements for new development will help combat siltation. People should be made aware of the need for controls. The trout season, particularly its first two weekends, brings traffic congestion and parking problems to Delaware. State park staff should work with transportation officials to develop a strategy that more effectively manages traffic during this time of the year. Trout fishermen sometimes inadvertently trespass on private lands to get to White Clay Creek and its tributaries. To reduce this unintentional trespassing, the boundaries of public land and private lands should be clearly marked.