This Op-Ed was written by W. Scott Douglas, president of the Cooks Creek Watershed Association and first appeared in the Bucks County Herald’s January 22, 2015 edition.
The Cooks Creek Watershed is a 30-square-mile Exceptional Value watershed located in Upper Bucks County. It contains more than 40 miles of pristine streams and brooks that retain a stunning array of fish, insects and other wildlife including the last remaining natural brook trout fishery in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
The Cooks Creek is unique in the Delaware Valley because of the exposed limestone and karst topography, making it home to a number of rare and endangered species. This limestone valley is capped north and south by granite ridges, creating a seam of springs that feed numerous headwater streams and wetlands and keep the water in Cooks Creek unusually clear, clean, and cold.
Historically, the watershed provided hydro power for one of the earliest iron furnaces in colonial America, and its iron mines helped secure the colonists’ victory over England in the Revolutionary War. The boats used to ferry General Washington across the Delaware in Trenton on a cold Christmas Eve in 1777 were made in Durham Township. A railroad once transported people and goods from the Delaware River to nearby Quakertown, and the proximity to the Delaware River canal system ensured a ready market for lumber and iron ore. Despite these industrial beginnings, the townships of Durham, Springfield and Lower Saucon are today a pastoral landscape of rolling hills, orchards, farms and forested lands interspersed with quaint villages and secluded estates.
In recent years there have been attempts by entrepreneurs to bring industry back to the Cooks Creek valley. A tank farm was proposed in Springtown; a quarry and asphalt plant was proposed in Durham, and recently, there was an attempt to export the exceptionally clean groundwater of Springtown to support regional development.
Since 1973, the Cooks Creek Watershed Association has successfully defended the watershed’s resources from these assaults. We now face a new attack. The PennEast pipeline is proposed to cross the Cooks Creek Watershed along the Durham/Riegelsville boundary. This 30-inch natural gas pipeline will carry natural gas from the fracking fields of North Central PA, to processing facilities in Mercer County, NJ.
If allowed to cross the Cooks Creek Watershed, the PennEast pipeline will cut a 125-foot swath of destruction across forest, headwaters and farmland in Durham, creating a scar that will bleed pesticides, sediments and invasive species. Unlike the impacts from historical industrial practices, these impacts are both permanent and have no discernible benefit to the people residing within the watershed. In a sad twist of irony, the majority of the gas will likely be liquefied and shipped overseas to fuel competing economies.
We need to take a stand now to stop this madness.
It is ridiculous and irresponsible to allow political interests fueled by greedy international companies to give away our resources. The members of the Cooks Creek Watershed Association have written and signed a resolution regarding our interests and how we stand in this matter. We will be presenting this resolution to local municipal governments, other environmental groups, the media, and local, county and state elected officials. If you would like to see this resolution, please visit www.stoppenneast.org.
By W. Scott Douglas, President
Cooks Creek Watershed Association