“Now every drop of stormwater that flows off this expanded six-mile stretch of the turnpike will be cooled and cleaned before gradually entering Valley Forge National Historical Park and Valley Creek" -- NPCA's Joy Oakes.
Valley Forge, PA – Following the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) approval of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s (PTC) expanded plan to control stormwater runoff from the turnpike extension in Chester County, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited (VFTU) concluded its years-long legal challenge to the original stormwater management plan. The expanded plan will prevent hot, dirty water from polluting Valley Creek and reduce future flooding of Valley Forge National Historical Park. NPCA and VFTU filed a legal challenge to DEP’s July 2016 decision to approve the original project’s stormwater permit due to the inadequate protections for Valley Forge National Historical Park including General George Washington’s Continental Army Headquarters and Valley Creek.
For years, lack of stormwater management upstream of the national park caused large volumes of warm, polluted water to run off the turnpike and many other paved surfaces into Valley Creek, degrading the creek’s water quality and eroding its banks. Flooding of Valley Creek during heavy rain storms has damaged the archaeologically-rich area around Washington’s Headquarters, which has stood for nearly 250 years, and threatens the area’s prized recreational wild trout fishery.
“This plan will better protect Valley Forge National Historical Park, its neighboring communities and Valley Creek,” said Joy Oakes, senior regional director for National Parks Conservation Association. “Now every drop of stormwater that flows off this expanded six-mile stretch of the turnpike will be cooled and cleaned before gradually entering the national park and Valley Creek. This improved stormwater management plan will prevent flooding of Washington’s Headquarters and protect a national park landscape rich with diverse plants and animals.”
The parties reached a formal legal settlement to move forward with a new stormwater management plan to bring a stretch of the turnpike currently lacking stormwater controls into compliance with state and federal clean water protections. The plan includes best management practices that communities across the Commonwealth could consider as they struggle to cope with stormwater and flood impacts. The modified turnpike expansion plan will treat the temperature, speed and quality of the water to more closely resemble the natural flow of rainwater.
Peter Hughes, President of Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited (VFTU) said, “the new settled upon plan is a success story for the exceptional value Valley Creek watershed, which draws hundreds of visitors each year to fly fish the prized wild brown trout of the creek.” Joe Armstrong, a past president of VFTU and world fly fishing traveler added, “Valley Creek is possibly the best wild trout stream in the world so close to a major metropolitan center.”
Valley Forge National Historical Park connects more than two million visitors each year to our nation’s Revolutionary War history, dating back to the Continental Army’s winter encampment. This park tells the stories of hardship and sacrifices made during our nation’s struggle for liberty. Along with its historical significance, the park preserves a unique collection of plants and wildlife, including tall-grass meadows and wild brown trout, which thrive in the park due to its abundance of cold-water resources.
Several years ago, the DEP originally approved the PTC’s stormwater management proposal, which would have allowed the agency to move forward with widening the turnpike from four to six lanes with expanded median and breakdown lanes. NPCA and VFTU challenged their plan with failing to comply with numerous state and federal clean water protections and not accounting for increased flooding along the banks of Valley Creek, which the National Park Service documented as a threat to Valley Forge and its natural and cultural resources. These negotiations, involving all parties, resulted in a solution benefiting both the state’s transportation needs and the preservation of one of our nation’s most historic park sites.
The turnpike widening project is in Chester County between milepost 320 and 326. Construction on the project is expected to begin in the summer of 2020. For nearly 10 years, national parks and clean water advocates, the National Park Service, VFTU, and PennFuture advocated for stronger stormwater protections along this stretch of roadway. The successful outcome for controlling polluted runoff from this stretch of turnpike included public comment opportunities to litigation and engineering negotiations. In the legal preparations and negotiations, NPCA was represented by Sive, Paget & Riesel of New York City, Arnold & Porter of Washington, DC, Begelman & Orlow of Cherry Hill, NJ, PennFuture of Philadelphia, and engineering firm Princeton Hydro of Princeton, NJ. VFTU was represented by John Wilmer, Esq. of Media, PA and Meliora Designs of Phoenixville, PA.
About National Parks Conservation Association Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
About the Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited For almost 60 years, Trout Unlimited, a national conservation organization, and its local chapters have worked “To conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds”. The VFTU mission is the same for all the waters of Chester County PA. For more information, visit TU.org or ValleyForgeTU.org.
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