Washington— Laurel Hill Creek, a key stream in the Youghiogheny watershed and a source of clean drinking water could soon have its unique character destroyed by excessive water withdrawals. This threat landed Laurel Hill Creek in the number seven spot in America’s Most Endangered Rivers: 2009 edition.
“Sucking too much water out of Laurel Hill Creek will destroy the very lifeblood that sustains local communities and the area’s popular recreation and tourism,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers, “Without the right safeguards, one of the Youghiogheny River’s key streams will suffer irreparable harm.”
American Rivers and its partners called on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to secure a Critical Water Planning Area designation for Laurel Hill Creek and issue immediate and effective guidance or regulation on future water withdrawals to preserve essential flows in the Creek.
Development pressures are growing in the area, placing increasing strain on Laurel Hill Creek and its dwindling water supply:
• Two major ski resorts that withdraw water from the watershed for hotels, condominiums and snowmaking systems plan to expand, and plans exist for construction of 1200 condominiums, two golf courses, and additional development at one of the resorts.
• A proposed water bottling facility could withdraw up to 108,000 gallons per day.
• The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has received thousands of proposals for new wells to extract methane in the Marcellus Shale Formation (MSF), a giant natural gas seam located beneath much of Appalachia. Tapping into each well will require between three and eight million gallons of water which will be mixed with a veritable cocktail of chemicals. PA DEP is beginning to issue permits within the Youghiogheny River watershed and has received applications for wells that would use water from Laurel Hill Creek.
Each of these projects would degrade Laurel Hill Creek and its ability to provide a long-term sustainable supply of clean water, and to generate recreation and tourism dollars.
“Laurel Hill Creek is already suffering from excessive water withdrawals. Summer stream flows in Laurel Hill Creek have decreased steadily over the past decades, putting severe strains on trout and other wildlife,” said Deb Simko of the Chestnut Ridge Trout Unlimited.
Laurel Hill Creek is a hot spot for recreation and tourism. The creek flows through the Laurel Highlands, which host more than three million visitors annually and generated more than $780 million in visitor spending in 2003.
“Laurel Hill Creek is a Pennsylvania treasure. We have a responsibility to our communities and to future generations to protect this creek and to manage our water wisely,” said Krissy Kasserman, Youghiogheny Riverkeeper with the Mountain Watershed Association.
About America’s Most Endangered Rivers
Each year, American Rivers solicits nominations from thousands of river groups, environmental organizations, outdoor clubs, local governments, and taxpayer watchdogs for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report. The report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures rather than those suffering from the worst chronic problems. The report presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed river.
American Rivers President Rebecca Wodder and Associate Director Liz Garland (Camp Hill, PA) are available for interviews, both pre and post embargo. Please contact Angela Dicianno (202) 347-7550 x3103 for booking.
Reporters wishing to direct readers to the report online may use the following link: www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.