Uncertain future for Laurel Hill Creek, one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2009

Six months after 'Most Endangered River' listing, outlook is mixed for future of excessive water withdrawals

October 20th, 2009

<P>Angela Dicianno, American Rivers, 202-243-7077<BR>Liz Garland, American Rivers, 717-763-0742<BR>Krissy Kasserman, Youghiogheny Riverkeeper, Mountain Watershed Association, 724-455-4200 <BR>Deb Simko, Chestnut Ridge Trout Unlimited, 724-787-5628 <BR></P>

Pennsylvania — Six months after American Rivers named Laurel Hill Creek one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers for 2009, the future of the river’s protection from excessive water withdrawals still hangs in the balance.

Laurel Hill Creek was recently spared from further harm but still lacks the Critical Water Planning Area (CWPA) safeguards to protect it from excessive water withdrawals.  On July 27th, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) formally denied the permit to Cooper Springs Trout Hatchery to withdraw 108,000 gallons of water per day in the Shafer Run sub-basin of Laurel Hill for water bottling companies.

Over 150 people attended a public meeting in opposition to the proposed permit and Senator Richard Kasunic and Representative Carl Walker Metzgar, Jr. publicly opposed the bottling permit.  The denial of the permit was applauded around the area; however, Laurel Hill Creek’s future is severely stressed by a growing number of permitted developments. The rapid expansion of Marcellus shale energy production, which requires massive water withdrawals, also continues to be a threat though no permitted withdrawals are occurring now.

A new threat recently emerged with the permit application for a limestone surface mine which will extend into the Shafer Run watershed of Laurel Hill Creek in the vicinity of a Somerset Borough well used for drinking water.  PA DEP has been instrumental in steering natural gas drillers away from Laurel Hill Creek as a water supply for hydraulic fracturing, but this issue highlights the importance of the CWPA designation, as it is currently the only viable tool to protect Laurel Hill Creek into the future.

“We have a responsibility to use the water we have wisely.  Drawing 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.”

The Ohio Regional Water Resources Committee met August 31st to discuss the formal nomination as a CWPA and to vote to move it forward to the state committee.  PA DEP must secure the CWPA designation for Laurel Hill Creek as a solid starting point from which to advocate for sound planning, management, and protection.
To learn more, visit www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers

About America’s Most Endangered Rivers™
Each year, the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures. 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.

The America’s Most Endangered Rivers Report results in thousands of supporters taking action on behalf of their beloved river. Such action produces immediate and tangible results. To see success stories visit www.AmericanRivers.org/MERSuccesses


About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.