Delaware River Basin Conservation and Restoration Initiative

The past Summer and Fall, PEC staff convened a series of planning workshops to help prepare an implementation plan as part of a new regional watershed initiative headed by the William Penn Foundation.  As part of this process, the foundation undertook an analysis to determine focus areas or clusters where conservation or restoration activities could be concentrated in order to achieve specific, measurable outcomes with an overarching goal of protecting and restoring places of ecological significance.



The eight targeted sub-watershed clusters were carefully selected with the assistance of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (ASN) and the Open Space Institute (OSI) to leverage existing organizational capacity and landscape identity and address specific water quality stressors prioritized by the Foundation (loss of forests in headwaters, agricultural runoff, stormwater, and aquifer depletion). The eight (8) sub-watershed clusters for this work included the following:

Poconos and Kittatinny, Upper Lehigh, New Jersey Highlands, Middle Schuylkill, Schuylkill Highlands, Upstream Suburban Philadelphia, Brandywine and Christina, and Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer.

PEC was asked to convene and facilitate preparation of an implementation plan for the Upstream Suburban Philadelphia sub-watershed. This cluster includes areas within the Cobbs, Pennypack, Poquessing, Tookany and Wissahickon Creek Watersheds in the communities just upstream from the City.  During the summer and early fall, 5 meetings were held with  the planning committee, watershed stakeholders and with individual sub-watershed groups.  In total, over 50 individuals, representing over 30 different organizations attended these meetings. The implementation plan, prepared by the Temple University Center for Sustainable Communities with input from the broader stakeholder group listed both on-the-ground projects (stormwater control measures) and above the ground strategies (monitoring, modeling, and education and outreach).

The implementation plan was submitted in August and reviewed by the foundation staff along with local technical advisors. Cluster groups were then invited to apply for operational funds in November and for capital funding in December.

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Cluster Characteristics
• Intensive land development
• High levels of impervious surface
• Fragmented political structure
• Widespread pollution and TMDLs
• Five hydrologically separated watersheds
• Many previous plans and studies

Cluster Stategies:

  • Cluster-wide “above-the-ground” strategies
    –      Technical support and research
    –      Public education, municipal engagement, and landowner assistance
  • Cluster-wide “on-the-ground” project oversight
    –      Quality assurance
    –      Pre & post monitoring
  • Subwatershed “on-the-ground” restoration


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One Response to Delaware River Basin Conservation and Restoration Initiative

  1. Carl DuPoldt says:

    Whetstone Run, Marple Township, Delaware County, PA
    Whetstone Run is a tributary to the Darby Creek. It exists totally within Marple Township, Delaware County, PA. The watershed occupies 1.1 square miles (704 acres). The stream runs parallel to Reed Road, crosses Sproul Road and into Lawrence Park. A tributary runs through the Archdioese of Philadelphia property to Cardinal O’Hara High School. The site surrounding this tributary is heavily wooded with steep slopes. I-476 (Blue Route) runs on the edge of the watershed along Reed Road. Currently, the property is being evaluated for land development by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (260 acres).

    The topographic map below shows the site and slopes involved

    The satellite image below shows the land cover on the site.

    An article appeared in the Town Talk Newspaper, which describes the land development intentions. The web link is:
    One approach for Whetstone Run protection would be to work with Pennon i in their Land Capacity Study as well as with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to request consideration of the following:
    1. Riparian buffers along the Whetstone Run (25 feet on each side);
    2. Protection of steep slopes on the site (greater than 20%);
    3. Protection of highly erodible soils;
    4. On site storm water retention and infiltration to preclude off site flooding greater than a
    1.5 year storm event;
    5. Protection of climax tree species, where feasible;
    6. Provide for vegetative buffer areas along I-476 to help mitigate traffic noises and absorb
    vehicular emissions;

    Another approach to help insure the long term protection of Whetstone Run would be to apply to the PA DEP for High Quality Stream Status. PADEP did a stream evaluation as a result of an oil spill from the heating oil tanks at Cardinal O’Hara High School in (letter dated January 19, 2001). It appears that the macro invertebrates present in the tributary to Whetstone Run exhibit qualities of a high quality stream.
    Whetstone Run and it’s un-named tributary are designated as a Warm Water Fishery/Migratory Fishery under current Water Quality Standards (PA Code Title 25, Chapter 93).
    Whetstone Run is also designated as a Trout Stocking Fishery and Migratory Fishery.
    PADEP representatives investigated the Whetstone Run tributary for water temperature, pH, and qualitative invertebrate samples. They used a kick screen (800 x 900 um mesh size) and rock picks. Macro invertebrates were found in relative abundance and they were preserved in a 70% ethanol for laboratory identification.
    The PADEP representatives found riparian vegetation consisting of dense assemblages of trees and shrubs providing 30-80% shading to the stream (less stream shading closer to Reed Road). The stream width was 1.5 to 2 meters with an approximate stream flow of 0.1 to 1.5 cubic feet per second.
    Relief Map,n,whetstone%20run,fid,1191227.cfm
    Reed Road over Whetstone Run
    FEMA Flood Zone Maps
    Map Nos:
    42045C010 – 1F, 2F, 3F, 4F
    I-476 Blue Route Link

    Some of the data obtained by PADEP representatives:

    Penn Futures has prepared a steam designation handbook ( for the procedures to obtain high quality stream status.
    In a report entitled, Watershed Restoration Action Strategy (WRAS) State Water Plan Sub basin 03G
    Darby, Crum, Ridley, Chester and Cobbs Creeks Watersheds (Delaware River Estuary)
    Delaware, Chester and Philadelphia Counties, there is data on the Darby Creek and it’s tributaries, including drainage area in square miles, miles impaired, miles attained, and impairment causes and sources.

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