Success on Laurel Hill Creek (MER 2009)

We have had some great news recently on one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ of 2009, Laurel Hill Creek!  In this listing, we asked that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) designate Laurel Hill Creek as a Critical Water Planning Area (CWPA).  On November 18, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Statewide Water Resource Committee voted “yes” for Laurel Hill Creek as a CWPA.  Once DEP Secretary John Hanger signs the official document, this Water Resource Management Plan will then be called a Critical Area Resource Plan (CARP)— the first in the state! 

Approval of this Plan by Secretary Hanger will set in motion a number of things, including a mandatory public hearing and a 45 day public comment period to get public input on the Plan.  This designation will allow for a greater awareness of the need to protect the watershed at a higher level, which means that the creek will receive more oversight and security.  It will also allow for planning to determine what to do when demand exceeds the resource available in the watershed.

Laurel Hill Creek is a tributary to the Youghiogheny River, which ultimately combines with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River.  As you may remember, the Monongahela Riverwas listed as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ of 2010.  Laurel Hill Creek has a high quality cold water fishery, and suffers from an abundance of water withdrawals.  Dan Galeone, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrogeologist, said that 2.3 million gallons of water are withdrawn from Laurel Creek daily, which is 1.4 million gallons more than what DEP has recommended.  This problem has been exacerbated by the same type of water withdrawals for natural gas extraction that led to the listing of the nearby Monongahela River this year. 

While challenges will remain for this stream, we hope that a Critical Area Resource Plan will lead to better, more protective management of Laurel Hill Creek and its valuable water resource.