STATEMENT OF DENIS P. GALVIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND RECREATION CONCERNING S. 1849, A BILL TO AMEND THE WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT TO DESIGNATE SEGMENTS AND TRIBUTARIES OF THE WHITE CLAY CREEK IN DELAWARE AND PENNSYLVANIA AS A COMPONENT OF THE NATIONAL WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS SYSTEM.
MARCH 8, 2000
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear today before the subcommittee to present the Department of the Interiorís position on S. 1849. This bill would amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by adding an additional paragraph designating segments and tributaries of the White Clay Creek in Delaware and Pennsylvania as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The bill provides that the administration of the designated river segments by the Secretary of the Interior is to be consistent with the cooperatively developed White Clay Creek Watershed Management Plan (May 1998) and to be undertaken in cooperation with federal, state, county and municipal governments. The bill also identifies additional segments that would be suitable for designation by the Secretary of the Interior only at such time as those segments are removed from consideration as locations for reservoirs under the comprehensive plan of the Delaware River Basin Commission.
The Department supports the intent of the bill but does not support how the bill has been drafted. In particular, given existing land ownership patterns, the Department supports designation as a "private lands" river managed by a non-federal entity rather than by a federal agency. We recommend that the bill be amended to address the concerns that we will outline as part of this testimony.
In December of 1991, Congress directed the National Park Service to undertake a study of the headwaters of the White Clay Creek in Pennsylvania to its confluence with the Christina River in Delaware. The study was also to include the East, West, and Middle Branches, Middle Run, Pike Creek, Mill Creek and other tributaries of the White Clay, as identified by the Secretary of the Interior, to determine their eligibility for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The study was to be done in cooperation and consultation with various federal, state, regional, and local governments and affected landowners. In addition, a river management plan was to be prepared that would provide recommendations as to the protection and management of the White Clay Creek and its tributaries. The plan was to outline roles for the state and local governments and affected landowners to play in the management of the White Clay Creek as a designated component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
In 1998 a watershed management plan was prepared that contained six goals for management of the White Clay Creek and its tributaries. The plan was done cooperatively and calls for a management framework for the White Clay Creek and its tributaries that relies heavily on local land use decisions and zoning as protection measures for the river.
In 1999 the National Park Service issued the "White Clay Creek and Its Tributaries National Wild and Scenic River Study Draft Report." In the study report the National Park Service found that the majority of the river segments identified in the study qualified for designation as a component of the Wild and Scenic River System. Those segments found to qualify for designation are reflected in S. 1849.
Because of land ownership patterns along the White Clay Creek and its tributaries, the National Park Service categorizes the White Clay Creek as a "private lands" river. Based upon this view and upon the legislative directives regarding the study of the White Clay Creek, there were five principles that guided the study of the river segments. These were:
1. The need for a strong emphasis on grassroots involvement and consensus building in determining whether the river segments were suitable for designation and how they should be managed.
2. The river management plan would be prepared during the study rather than after designation and would be a collaborative effort of NPS, the study task force and state and local governments.
3. Designation of river segments would only occur if strong local support for designation existed and was expressed through passage of support resolutions by the affected communities.
4. Existing land use patterns would be maintained and local land use control and home rule would not be usurped.
5. The laws and regulations that affect the White Clay Creek and its tributaries are complex involving two states, thirteen municipalities, two counties, the Delaware River Basin Commission, and several federal agencies. Coordination is limited, and the recommended management strategy for the Wild and Scenic River segments must enhance cooperation and communication.
With these principles in mind, the study was undertaken and a preferred alternative for designation and management developed. The preferred alternative recommends designation of 191 river miles of the White Clay Creek and its tributaries as a unit of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The study further recommends that a river management committee cooperatively manage the designated river segments. Protection of the river's outstanding resources would be based upon private, state and local conservation measures and would not rely on federal land acquisition or direct federal management. Strong local support for the designation and management plan has been demonstrated through resolutions of support adopted by the adjoining local governments in Delaware and Pennsylvania.
The Department has no objection to the provisions of the bill that authorize the
Secretary to provide technical assistance, staff support, and funding to assist in the implementation of the management plan, and that provide for cooperative agreements to facilitate the long-term protection, conservation, and enhancement of the river segments. We also support the provision that would restrict, consistent with the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, water resource projects that would have a direct and adverse effect on the values for which the segments have been designated.
As I stated earlier we do not have any objections to the intent of the legislation. We do, however, object to the way the bill has been crafted. The management prescriptions that are specific to the White Clay Creek should not be enacted as an amendment to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, but should instead be included in free-standing legislation.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides management rules for rivers that are to be units of the National Park System or managed as part of a national park or national forest. When a river that is designated as part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System is to be managed differently than the management outlined in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, those particular management prescriptions have consistently been adopted as free-standing provisions of the designation legislation. This has been done so as to keep the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act focused on designations and not the exceptions to the law. Separate legislation is effective in ensuring that the river is managed under an exception to the usual management prescriptions. Keeping the special management provisions separate also prevents confusion between generally appropriate management requirements that are contained in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and those that are provided in the independent legislation.
The amendment to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act should provide for the designation of the White Clay Creek and its tributaries, as primarily found in the language on pages three through six of S. 1849. The bill should also provide a clear statement that the White Clay Creek will not be considered a unit of the National Park System or administered according to the laws and regulations of the National Park System. The language and the management prescriptions that are specific to the White Clay Creek should be embodied in separate legislation. We will be happy to work with the committee to redraft this legislation to address these concerns.
This completes my prepared statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this bill.