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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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S. 970 - Parks and Lands Bills




STATEMENT OF PEGGY O'DELL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES CONCERNING S. 970, A BILL TO AMEND THE WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT TO DESIGNATE ADDITIONAL SEGMENTS AND TRIBUTARIES OF THE WHITE CLAY CREEK IN THE STATE OF DELAWARE AND THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA AS COMPONENTS OF THE NATIONAL WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS SYSTEM.

JULY 28, 2011 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee today to discuss the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 970, a bill to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by designating additional segments and tributaries of the White Clay Creek in Delaware and Pennsylvania as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

The Department supports enactment of this legislation with one technical amendment.

S. 970 would amend the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River designation to add nine additional miles of segments and tributaries to the designation, to be administered by the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary). The additional segments and tributaries will be managed in accordance with the "White Clay Creek and Its Tributaries Watershed Management Plan" (amended Summer 2001) with the Secretary coordinating the White Clay Creek Watershed Management Committee.

In December 1991, Congress directed the National Park Service to undertake a study of the headwaters of the White Clay Creek in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to its confluence with the Christina River in the State of Delaware. The study was also to include the East, West, and Middle Branches; Middle Run; Pike Creek; Mill Creek; and other tributaries of the White Clay, as identified by the Secretary, to determine their eligibility for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The study was to be done in cooperation and consultation with various federal, state, regional, and local governments and affected landowners. In addition, a river management plan was to be prepared that would provide recommendations as to the protection and management of the White Clay Creek and its tributaries. The plan was to outline roles for the state and local governments and affected landowners to play in the management of the White Clay Creek as a designated component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

In 1998, a watershed management plan was prepared that contained six goals for management of the White Clay Creek and its tributaries. These goals include improving and conserving water quality and quantity, and conserving open space, woodlands, wetlands, and geologic features. The plan was done cooperatively and calls for a management framework for the White Clay Creek and its tributaries that rely heavily on local land use decisions.

In 1999, the National Park Service issued the "White Clay Creek and Its Tributaries National Wild and Scenic River Study Draft Report." In the report, the National Park Service found that the majority of the river segments identified in the study met the eligibility requirements of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by virtue of their free-flowing condition and presence of one or more outstandingly remarkable resource values. The watershed also includes open space and recreational opportunities for hiking, jogging, canoeing and fishing; in fact, the White Clay Creek is the most heavily stocked and heavily used put-and-take trout stream in the State of Delaware. In 2000, Public Law 106-357 designated 190 miles of the White Clay Creek and its tributaries as components of the National Wild and Scenic River System.

The study report also identified additional segments and tributaries, which are the subject of S. 970, that would be eligible and suitable for designation. These segments and tributaries are eligible and suitable because they are free-flowing streams with outstandingly remarkable values including the Cockeysville marble geologic formation that supports a high-yielding aquifer, a major source of drinking water, and threatened and endangered species including the Muhlenberg's (bog) turtle and cerulean warbler. However, these segments and tributaries were removed from consideration because the Delaware River Basin Commission was looking at these areas as possible locations for reservoirs under their comprehensive plan. In addition, there was not demonstrated municipal support for such a designation.

In 2007, these segments and tributaries were removed from the comprehensive plan of the Delaware River Basin Commission. In addition, the New Garden Township in Pennsylvania, the only affected municipality, passed a resolution in support of the designation. With these two issues resolved, the Department now supports these segments and tributaries, totaling nine miles, be added to the National Wild and Scenic River System.

The Department would like to work with the committee to make a technical correction to a map reference in Section 3 of the bill.

This concludes my prepared remarks, Mr. Chairman. I will be happy to answer any questions you or other committee members may have regarding this bill.