Riparian Buffer Assessment

 Southeastern Pennsylvania Riparian Buffer Assessment Update

In 2000, Heritage Conservancy was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) as part of the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program and Pennsylvania Steam Releaf to develop an efficient method of identifying and mapping sections of streams lacking forested riparian buffers. The method proved successful and enabled Heritage Conservancy to obtain another grant from the PA DEP to undertake a forested riparian assessment of watershed in Lehigh and Northampton Counties, which was completed in 2001. As a follow-up, Berks County streams were assessed and riparian buffers mapped in 2007. In 2010, Heritage Conservancy collaborated with the Montgomery County Planning Commission to undertake a reevaluation of streams in six watersheds that were included in the first set of evaluations completed in 2001 and 2002. In total, approximately 1500 stream miles were reassessed in the following six watersheds located within the boundaries of Montgomery County, Bucks County and/or Philadelphia County: 

Perkiomen Creek – Montgomery County portion only
Wissahickon Creek – Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties
Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Creek – Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties
Pennypack Creek – Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties
Lower Schuylkill River – Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties
Neshaminy Creek – Bucks and Montgomery Counties

Statistical analyses of the forested riparian buffer were completed for each of the municipalities and the study area watersheds. The table below provides the statistical analysis for each watershed. At the watershed level, the analysis indicates that roughly 80% of the streams assessed met the full buffer condition on one or both sides, while about 20% lacked buffers on both sides. Another way to look at the data is that nearly 60% met the full buffer condition of 50-foot width and 50% canopy closure while 40% did not. 


The following maps give an overview of the watersheds in focus: 


In addition to the assessment, the project team evaluated methods to compare the updated information with the original findings and also undertook an examination of land use and buffer status correlation.

The data that were produced, and information about how the data can be used, were presented at three public workshops held in August 2012. Meetings were held in Lower Frederick Township and Whitpain Township, both in Montgomery County, as well as Doylestown Township in Bucks County.

The assessment data is available for use by municipalities, water and sewer authorities, water companies, utilities, public works departments, educators, researchers, watershed and environmental organizations and concerned citizens. Uses include, but are not limited to: inclusion in comprehensive plans, planning for public works projects, preservation activities, actions to improve water quality and meet storm water permitting requirements, environmental assessments and environmental restorations.

The assessment data has been processed and formatted to make it usable for organizations or individuals. Simple maps were prepared for each municipality, showing stream locations and status of the riparian buffers. The maps are available in PDF format that can be read by Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you are interested in the comprehensive assessment analysis, please contact Joyce Austin at 215-345-7020 ext. 114 to request a complete copy on disk.

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