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Study And planning background

On December 11, 1991, President Bush signed into law the White Clay Creek Study Act, responding to the concern of citizens of Pennsylvania and Delaware who lived within the White Clay Creek watershed and who wanted the creek, together with its tributaries and watershed, evaluated for possible inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act states that designated rivers possess outstandingly remarkable natural, cultural and other values, and that they are to be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments are to be protected. A specific safeguard for designated rivers is that no federal authority will authorize or otherwise support any water resources project (including dams) that would have a direct adverse effect on the values for which a river was designated as Wild and Scenic.

As a first step toward designation, Congress directed the National Park Service (NPS) to convene a study task force comprising watershed residents, community organizations, state and local government officials and others in evaluating the eligibility and suitability of White Clay Creek for designation, and in developing a management plan for the watershed.

In January 1992, the task force was established. Members included watershed residents; landowners; private organizations; and representatives of local, county, state and federal governments. The group was charged with overseeing the preparation of a management plan, and with creating a forum for broad public involvement in which participants could voice opinions and suggestions, exchange ideas and proffer recommendations. To facilitate its work, the study task force established an advisory committee through which it communicated with the National Park Service.

The NPS, along with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; the State of Delaware; Chester County; Pennsylvania; and New Castle County, Delaware, and the thirteen affected municipalities, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to work cooperatively to complete the congressionally authorized study of White Clay Creek for possible inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. All parties agreed to conduct the study with broad public involvement, and to stimulate the best possible exchange of ideas in the decision-making process.

As a framework for its watershed management plan, the study task force, in conjunction with the National Park Service, identified a series of tasks, the accomplishment of which would be milestones in the planning process. The tasks identified were:

1. Identification of high-priority watershed resources.

2. Identification of watershed-related needs, concerns and issues.

3. Establishment of goals for watershed resource conservation.

4. Identification of alternatives for resource protection and the resolution of issues.

5. Creation of a plan of action for watershed resource protection.

To allow in-depth analysis of important resources, and to focus potential management issues, the study task force organized itself into subcommittees that would meet throughout this phase of the management planning process.

The subcommittees are Natural Resources; Water Resources; Cultural Resources; Education; Land Use; Recreation; and Management, Governance and Funding.

To facilitate their work, the subcommittees held public workshops in Pennsylvania and Delaware in October 1993, and again in Pennsylvania in February 1994. News articles and fact sheets stimulated participation in the workshops. These sessions highlighted for the subcommittees the issues that mattered most to residents and policy makers in the watershed, and they yielded valuable information and insights members would not otherwise have had. The subcommittee's research and findings support the statements and recommendations made in this plan.

The subcommittees continued work through 1994, issuing the following reports pertinent to the management plan:

Resources and Issues Report (September 1994)

Landowner Survey (November 1994)

Draft Eligibility and Classification Report (November 1994)

Draft Management Goals and Actions (November 1994)

After the subcommittees had completed their studies, meetings and reports, the study task force organized a management planning committee to develop this plan for the White Clay Creek watershed study area. Work commenced in 1995.

In cooperation with the National Park Service, and in preparation for the management plan, the Water Resources Agency for New Castle County (WRANCC) prepared resource maps in the form of an overview of the watershed, using geographic information system (GIS) technology.

The management plan for the White Clay Creek watershed envisions a cooperative approach to resource management and protection. Landowners; citizens; private organizations; local, county, state and federal governments; businesses and others will be encouraged to work together to achieve the goals and take the actions recommended in this plan. Only through coordinated management and action will the level of resource protection envisioned in this plan be achieved.