If you look at a Post-Construction Stormwater Management Plan or Erosion Control Plan prepared by our office, you will notice a “Receiving Surface Waters” note on the plan. This note may say “Unnamed Tributary (UNT) to East Branch Big Elk Creek in the Big Elk Creek Watershed: A High Quality-Trout Stocking (HQ-TSF) Water Course.” Someone may read this note and wonder why this watercourse is classified as “High Quality-Trout Stocking”. First off, all Waters of the Commonwealth are protected for multiple uses that include water supply, recreation, and fish consumption, and aquatic life. The marine life designations include CWF (Cold Water Fishes), WWF (Warm Water Fishes), MF (Migratory Fishes) or TSF (Trout Stocking Fishes).

These designations are defined as follows:
• WWF and CWF – The watercourse is designated for maintenance and/or breeding of a fish species that is indigenous to either a cold or warm water habitat.
• MF – The watercourse is designated as passage, maintenance and breeding of a fish species which move through flowing waters to complete their life cycle.
• TSF – The watercourse is designated as maintenance of stocked trout and maintenance and breeding of fish that are indigenous to a warm water habitat.

In addition to the above designations, waters will be designated as “Special Protection” if additional protection against degradation is required. These designations include High-Quality Waters (HQ) and Exceptional Value Waters (EV). There are conditions that must be satisfied for a stream to be classified as “Special Protection”.

For a stream to be designated as HQ, the stream’s chemistry must meet the proper standards. Many parameters, that include pH, iron, temperature, etc., must be tested to ensure that the levels necessary to support the breeding of fish are met, for at least 99% of the time for a minimum of one year. Biology is also a condition considered for designating a stream as HQ.
For a stream to be designated as EV, one of the qualifiers for HQ must be met along with another condition from a completely separate list. This condition would pertain to being located in a National wildlife refuge, State game propagation or designated State Park, along with other conditions. A full list of the EV and HQ conditions can be found in Chapter 93.4b of the PA Code.

One thing that we don’t typically add to our plans is whether a stream is impaired. This would mean that the stream does not meet the water quality standards associated with their designated and existing uses. If a stream is designated with an impairment, PADEP will specify the source and cause for it being impaired. Some sources/causes include agriculture/nutrients and urban runoff-storm sewers/siltation. For additional information on stream impairments, please refer to the 2016 PA Integrated WQ Monitoring and Assessment Report.