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Upgrade, don't Downgrade Tohickon Creek!

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Tell PADEP Tohickon Creek in Bucks County Deserves an Upgrade to Exceptional Value Status – Not a Downgrade as Proposed

UPDATE: Thanks to overwhelming concern and public pressure, the comment period has been extended to July 11th.”  Let’s keep the comments coming in to take advantage of this extra time!

For over two decades, the Delaware River community has been working and waiting to see the realization of Tinicum Conservancy’s stream upgrade petition, which was submitted to PA DEP in 1995. The Conservancy, the community, and allies including Delaware Riverkeeper Network, have been seeking Exceptional Value (EV) designation for the Tohickon Creek, a tributary flowing into the Lower Wild & Scenic Delaware River near Point Pleasant, PA in Bucks County. “EV” is the highest designation possible for streams in the Commonwealth. This designation does not prohibit development. The designation does trigger thresholds so that any private developer, any dischargers, including sewage treatment plants or commercial and industrial industries seeking to locate in the region, must meet standards and use practices that prevent degradation of the healthy waters and wetlands that belong to all Pennsylvanians. You can learn more about what special protection does and does not do here.

Since the original petition was submitted almost 25 years ago, many national, regional, and local conservation measures and plans have been written and adopted for this beautiful historic watershed.  The Tohickon flows through iconic places like Ralph Stover State Park and the Appalachian Highlands. Over 3,000 acres of lands have been protected, through both public and private investment, by communities that take pride in preserving this well-loved and significant Bucks County stream and watershed. EV designation protection by PADEP is long overdue and would strengthen the spirit and goals behind the local protection plans of the community in place now and garner additional important Clean Water Act pollution controls at the state level to better protect the Tohickon Creek community’s water from harm.  This state protection is especially essential in light of the threats we face with climate change leading to warming stream temperatures, increased flooding and drought extremes.

Despite these community investment and conservation efforts over the decades, on April 13, 2019, PADEP issued a draft report on the Tinicum Conservancy’s upgrade petition, but instead of giving this stream better protection, PADEP is proposing to weaken protections for the Tohickon by downgrading its main stem from Lake Nockamixon dam to its confluence with the Delaware River with the proposed designation Trout Stock Fishery, Migratory Fishery (TSF, MF). The Tohickon’s current designation is Cold Water Fishery, Migratory Fishery (CWF, MF).

PADEP is recommending denial of the request for Exceptional Value designation that the local community has been working towards and investing in for the Tohickon Creek for decades. A 30-day comment period began on April 13 and has been extended to July 11th.

Please take a moment now to write to PADEP and elected officials before the July 11th deadline. Urge decision makers to upgrade the Tohickon to EV. The Tohickon should not be downgraded to TSF. Such a downgrade could allow hotter waste sources to discharge into Tohickon Creek. Tell PADEP that it is premature to consider a downgrade of the Tohickon Creek without further evaluation of water quality effects resulting from or possible through the water-release management of the dam at Lake Nockamixon. Urge the PADEP to hold off on issuing a final report and conduct much needed and missing analysis and modeling, especially in light of PADEP’s recommendation for a downgrade and pursuit of a Use Attainability Analysis (UAA) that would harm the Tohickon Creek.

Clean freshwater is finite. Healthy and prosperous communities rely on clean, free-flowing streams. Our public trust and our right to clean water must be protected from polluters as required under PA’s Environmental Rights amendment. PADEP’s recommendation to downgrade the Tohickon Creek and deny EV status flies in the face of what the Tohickon Creek and the community deserve, and what the community has requested since 1995.

To comment:

Fill out our submission form below to automatically send your letters to your elected officials and key members of PADEP.

You may also submit a letter directly to PADEP using their portal here: https://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment/Comments.aspx.

Hard copy letters can also be mailed here:

ATTN: Mark Brickner
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Policy Office
Rachel Carson State Office Building,
P.O. Box 2063,
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2063

Sample Letter Text:

Feel free to use our talking points or modify them to make your own comment.

Sample letter Subject line:  Tohickon Creek Deserves EV protection!

I am writing to urge the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) to recommend an upgrade of the Tohickon Creek to Exceptional Value (EV), and to reject PADEP’s recommendation to downgrade and weaken protections to the Tohickon Creek by designating it Trout-Stocked-Fishery (TSF).  This EV stream redesignation is long overdue. Back in 1995, the Tinicum Conservancy petitioned the PADEP to upgrade the Lower Tohickon Creek main stem, from the outfall of Lake Nockamixon to the mouth where it meets the Delaware River near Point Pleasant to EV status (its current designation is Cold Water Fishery, Migratory Fishery).

Since that time, the community and petitioners have provided additional data to supplement their original community petition. Many more local, regional, and national conservation and protection measures have been put in place. Various studies, volunteer monitoring efforts, conservation plans, and supplements have been undertaken. Riparian and open space lands have been protected. Lake Nockamixon’s dam valve has been repaired, albeit better management of dam releases could lead to cooler stream temperatures for the Tohickon. It would be premature for PADEP to consider a downgrade of the Tohickon Creek without further evaluation of water quality effects resulting from or possible through the water-release management of the dam at Lake Nockamixon.

All of these efforts have been shared with the PADEP to advance this EV petition for the Tohickon Creek and secure the long overdue state designation and additional state protection warranted.

Bucks County’s Tohickon Creek which flows into the Lower Delaware River Wild & Scenic River is deserving of additional state EV protection for many reasons on the record including:

  • The Tohickon Creek is designated as a Critical Treasure of the Appalachian Highlands, a federally designated area of national conservation importance (Highlands Conservation Act, 2004) for its high-priority natural areas and diversity of rare habitats.
  • Tohickon Creek is recognized as part of the Wild & Scenic Rivers complex and an integral tributary to the Lower Delaware National Wild and Scenic River that was designated in 2000. The Tohickon Creek meets all 5 Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORV's) –those characteristics that make a river worthy of special protection, including hydrological, cultural, ecological, recreational and scenic values. In order to be assessed as outstandingly remarkable, a river-related value must be a unique, rare, or exemplary feature that is significant at a comparative regional or national scale. In fact, the Tohickon Creek scored even higher than some existing EV streams included in the report.
  • Tinicum, Bedminster, Nockamixon and Plumstead Townships and Bucks County have all identified Tohickon Creek for Priority One Open Space Protection, with surface water quality requirements and special zoning districts along the Tohickon.
  • All townships have adopted protective planning, zoning, and legislation to include protected public parklands and open space, buffer zones, stream setbacks, low-density development, erosion and sedimentation controls, on-lot sewage restrictions, and stormwater management.
  • All these protective measures, already in place in Tinicum, Bedminster, Nockamixon and Plumstead Townships, enhance water quality protection and are coupled with an interest in real estate, (as described at § 93.1. Definitions - "Coordinated water quality protective measures," including fee owned, conservation easement and park lands and natural areas).

Tinicum Conservancy, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, county conservation districts, townships, legislators, EACs along with hundreds of landowners, organizations, and other partners have continued to support an EV designation for the Tohickon Creek. The extensive ongoing monitoring and research, land preservation efforts, and municipal zoning protection work invested since the petition was submitted in 1995 all weigh on the side of PADEP revising its draft report to reflect the EV resource the community already knows the Tohickon Creek to be.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

(End of sample letter)