As a state lawmaker, I am dedicated to preserving and protecting the natural resources of our state. Clean water is under threat right now, and I consider it my job to protect it.
Last week, the governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware met for the first time in two decades to recommit themselves to keeping the Delaware River clean.
I was heartened by the governors’ proclamation to ensure the lifeblood of the Delaware River Valley is fishable and swimmable, its waters able to meet high drinking water standards, and its tidal shorelines and waters accessible to the public.
The meeting was timely as both the Delaware River Basin Commission and the river it was created to protect are both under threat.
Recently, I rose on the floor of the House to take a stand against a piece of environmentally dangerous legislation, H.B. 827, that seeks to undercut DRBC’s ability to protect Pennsylvania’s water quality, and so threatens Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to clean air and water. The bill is expected to be voted on when the legislature returns to session in June.
H.B. 827 is short-sighted, ultimately seeking to strip an important regulatory agency of its mandated powers so that the few – drillers - can conduct hydraulic fracturing and so deprive the many - the people living within the borders of the Delaware River Basin, who make up 43 percent of Pennsylvania’s population - their right to clean air and water.
H.B. 827 would bankrupt the commission by requiring it to compensate landowners because hydraulic fracturing can’t take place on their property – even though the fracking ban does not prohibit other types of gas drilling and development.
This issue is personal to us here in the 143rd District. Our longest border is with the river; our beautiful streams flow into it, and many of the woods, hiking trails, and quiet by-ways that characterize our region have the Delaware riverside as a backdrop. From the historic Roebling Bridge in Riegelsville to the Wing Dam in Point Pleasant, we cherish every mile of our stretch of the river. Protecting this resource from contamination by fracked water discharge and streams that feed it from unfortunate fracking accidents is of paramount importance.
It is critically important that all the Delaware River’s waters are well regulated.
Right now, our beloved Tohickon Creek — a tributary of the Delaware River - is threatened by a proposed downgrade to a Trout-Stocked-Fishery (TSF) designation. This is a scenic, fast flowing stream that runs past the cliffs of High Rocks State Park and is host to an internationally known white water kayaking competition twice a year.
A few years ago, when I was a Girl Scout leader, my troop spotted the elusive State Amphibian – the Eastern Hell Bender – a rare creature that lives only in clean, fast flowing waters and is dying out elsewhere.
A downgraded designation of the Tohickon would effectively weaken its protections, allowing additional pollutants to be discharged into the Creek. We need to protect the Tohickon Creek from degradation and maintain its pristine status by having the PADEP designate the Creek as Exceptional Value (EV), the highest designation for streams in PA.
Tohickon Creek’s designation to Exceptional Value would protect all existing uses of the stream (i.e., by aquatic life and humans) and safeguard the quality of its water. The EV designation would not prohibit development but would require private developers and dischargers seeking to locate in the region to meet standards and use practices that prevent the degradation of waters and wetlands.
It’s commonsense to designate the Tohickon Creek as EV to protect this beloved stream and the surrounding areas from reckless development encouraged by poor environmental regulations.
As your representative, I hope that you will join me in taking action to protect our Delaware River.
Submitted by State Representative Wendy Ullman (D-143)