Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
Some of the cleanest water in Pennsylvania flows from the Poconos – the headwater streams of our majestic Delaware River. PennFuture, representing itself and Brodhead Watershed Association, won a significant legal victory earlier this month when the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) dismissed a challenge to the classification of four of those headwater streams as Exceptional Value.
Adding to a long list of legal wins over PennFuture’s 20 year history, this decision by the EHB held back an attack by a group of resorts and developers who challenged the process by which the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection classifies waters for protection. In this instance, the four streams under scrutiny – Swiftwater Creek, Paradise Creek, Tunkhannock Creek and Devil’s Hole – will receive the highest level of protection from degradation through the Exceptional Value classification. And that’s a really good thing, because there is a very long list of communities, livelihoods, economies and critters who benefit from this cleanest of water.
The group who brought this legal action against DEP -- in which PennFuture and Brodhead Watershed Association intervened -- includes the largest resorts in the Poconos. The resorts have plans to build, grow, and become even larger. And while they say they are environmentalists, we see that they aren’t green enough to develop in a way that respects the purity of Pocono water, the integrity of its forested landscape, unique natural beauty, or the history of the area as a mecca for quiet respite in the outdoors for over a century. These businesses find environmental rules too tough and costly to comply with, and to make it all a little easier, question the state’s scientists, and ask the courts to make it easier for them to develop by allowing some pollution to the streams that stand in their way. We expect that these resorts will continue to try to undermine clean streams protections, and PennFuture will be here to fight back.
In March 2017, PennFuture moved its northeast office to Mount Pocono. We became part of the community and were welcomed by the rich array of water advocates, land protectors, and recreationists who for decades stewarded these lands and waters. This move proved to be fortuitous and put PennFuture in one of the most important disputes around clean water in a long time. PennFuture’s lawyers had represented several of these groups and their interests in the past, resulting in strong relationships that were already in place. The organization was able to quickly mobilize to defend the exceptional water of the Poconos. The stakes for the future of the Poconos are high, and the work to protect the region by necessity involves more than litigation.
As a complement to our legal work, we are part of the very exciting Our Pocono Waters Campaign, launched earlier this fall with key partners including Trout Unlimited, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and many more stewards of the Poconos environment, including a growing list of businesses and civic organizations. These groups and businesses are advancing a sustainable vision for growth in the Poconos, in an endeavor to keep the natural assets and character of the region that make is so special.
This fight for clean water in the Poconos includes a display of grassroots support, so that elected officials in each of Monroe County’s 17 municipalities – as well as the greater Pocono region – understand there is broad support for true environmental protection and sustainable growth. That show of force is building through an online petition that to-date has over 2,200 signatures and we hope you will sign and be part of this important fight.
On Tuesday, Oct. 30 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Our Pocono Waters Campaign is presenting a forum entitled “Clean Streams, the Poconos, and You” at East Stroudsburg University. The evening is an opportunity for you to learn more from expert panelists, including understanding the regulatory protection of water in Pennsylvania, and hearing from businesses and recreationists that rely on clean water. Let’s all stay informed and educated on these issues.
Finally, we will not win this fight without money. PennFuture is raising funds for our legal defense of Exceptional Value waters in the Poconos to continue to fight on the legal front. The battle for the Poconos’ clean water is not over, and we are also preparing for similar fights in other parts of the state. Our fund goal is $25,000 and if you can make a contribution, you can help keep us in the fight. This campaign for clean water will take legal muscle, broad support from grassroots, businesses and civic-minded organizations, well-informed citizens and advocates and sufficient financial resources. Let’s work together to be prepared for a long fight.