The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday voted to endorse a bill introduced by U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) to add approximately nine miles of White Clay Creek and its tributaries to the existing Wild and Scenic Rivers designation for the waterway. The White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River Expansion Act of 2011 (S.970) now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
"This legislation will help children from throughout the region to enjoy the rich resources in the White Clay Creek watershed," Senator Coons said. "Growing up, I spent considerable time in the White Clay Creek watershed and know that it is an important resource for Delaware and the region. Years ago, my grandmother donated some of her land along the banks of White Clay Creek to help protect it. It's up to all of us to fight to protect our natural resources. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to get this legislation passed by the full Senate."
The legislation, which would come at no cost to taxpayers, would expand the original Wild and Scenic Rivers designation to include two small stream sections that were omitted from the original 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 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 That consideration has since been withdrawn and the Township is now supportive of the designation.
In May, Senator Coons and Representative Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) concurrently introduced the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River Expansion Act in their respective chambers. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), as well as Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) are cosponsors.
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.) 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 also 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 is supported by the White Clay Creek Watershed Management Committee, which is comprised of 40 local, state, and federal agency representatives, as well as organizations and businesses. Among its members is the National Park Service, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, New Castle County Department of Land Use, London Britain Township, United Water Delaware, White Clay Outfitters, the Brandywine Conservancy, the Delaware Ornithological Society, Stroud Water Research Center, Chester County Planning Division, and SE Regional Office Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources.