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PennDOT Bridge Projects Damaging Special Protection Streams

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network continues to monitor and challenge ongoing bridge replacement projects near sensitive streams in the Delaware River Watershed. 

The Tinicum Creek basin is designated as an Exceptional Value stream because it has very high quality waters and healthy habitats.  As a result, the law requires that the water quality of the Tinicum and its tributaries be maintained and protected.  Despite that, PennDOT has been pursuing a number of damaging bridge projects, evading the requirements of the law that would avoid or minimize harms.

Sheephole Bridge
After witnessing degradation of the Little Tinicum Creek from two PennDOT bridge replacement projects along Headquarters Road in Tinicum Township the Delaware Riverkeeper Network is closely monitoring developments for the Sheephole Road Bridge over the Tinicum Creek. Documents obtained by the DRN indicate PennDOT may be moving toward replacing the current historic structure with a two lane bridge. 

The current one lane bridge is considered the 4th oldest bridge in Bucks County and one of the oldest bridges in Pennsylvania. Many local residents want to keep the crossing at one lane. Construction of a new bridge could lead to more erosion and silt being dumped into the Tinicum Creek, an exceptional value stream as well as increasing the runoff of pollutants from the roadway. 

Jugtown Hill Road Bridge
DRN supported efforts by local residents to try and block the demolition of the Jugtown Hill Road Bridge. Bucks County and PennDOT officials moved ahead with demolishing the bridge in late April despite opposition from local residents. The bridge was located within the Delaware Canal State Park, a national historic landmark. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network conducted an outreach to federal and state officials to determine if an appropriate review of the historical value of the bridge had been conducted.
  
Tettemer & Cafferty Road Bridges:
PennDOT has been pursuing and carrying out two bridge projects over Tributaries of Tinicum Creek at Tettemer and Cafferty Roads in Tinicum Township, Bucks County, PA.  
 
Tinicum at Cafferty Rd Bridge.jpgThe two bridge projects being pursued by PennDOT resulted in water quality, habitat and other degradation of the Exceptional Value streams that comprise the Tinicum Creek.  In addition to the damaging nature of the work done, when PennDOT submitted materials for the two bridge projects it represented that each of these projects would result in less than one acre of disturbance – the result was that PennDOT was granted waivers from having to pursue certain Clean Water Act permits (NPDES permits).  But, expert reviews conducted by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network with the support of our local members now prove that in fact each of the projects disturbs more than one acre of land, and as a result NPDES permits are required by law.  That means that PennDOT pursued these two projects without the permits required by federal law. 
  
Not only is the implementation of these projects without the necessary permits a violation of law, had this permitting been pursued there would have been more careful reviews into the degradation these two projects would inflict on the Tinicum Creek because of its Exceptional Value status. 
  
The bridge projects expanded the sizes of the existing bridges, resulting in polluting land disturbance.  In addition, the Cafferty Road site included approximately 330 linear feet of retaining wall along Sundale Creek, a tributary to the Tinicum.  The proposed retaining walls encroach into the active channel of the creek, narrowing it, constricting stream flow, and increasing instream velocity.  The ramifications will be to change the flow of the creek in such a way that it could result in increased erosion, sedimentation, degraded water quality and harmed stream habitats.  Tettemer also includes damaging instream and stream side work that could cause similar harms.  
  
According to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s stream restoration expert: 
  
 “…it is my professional opinion that proposed plans for the Headquarters Road – Cafferty Road and Headquarters Road – Tettemer Road bridges do not adequately address antidegradation standards for EV streams, and that if implemented as proposed will result in unmitigated water quality impacts and a permanent loss of habitat. “
  
Through advocacy and litigation, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has been working to enforce the requirements of the law – both directly by legally challenging the PennDOT projects, but also by pressing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to step in and do its job to enforce applicable environmental protection laws. 
  
As videos show, the ongoing construction is having adverse effects on this stream.  Run off from the construction has traveled down Headquarters Road and eventually put more sediments in the stream. Low flows have made it difficult for wildlife such as Great Blue Herons to forage for food.    
  
This project should have received an anti-degredation permit from the Pennsylvania DEP.  PennDot didn't bother to get one and PADEP didn't bother to enforce the law -- the result has been damage to the stream and the community. Dry Little Tinicum Creek: https://youtu.be/5j0b8Ii2IH0
Runoff: https://youtu.be/0zto-r-RBjw

Supporting Documents