After local environmental groups got the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to boost conservation of about a half-dozen waterways in Monroe County, a coalition of businesses and landowners filed a lawsuit challenging the new stream classifications. The streams carry some of the cleanest water in the state, attracting tourists and providing drinking water to cities downstream.

Tank Creek is home to native plants and attracts bears, deer and birds. The surrounding forest keeps the water cool, which makes sure the stream is loaded with wild trout.

From its banks, no houses or people are in sight. Fisherman Rob Shane wants to keep it that way.

“I find solitude here in the stream, in the forest, in the wildlife, in the fish,” said Shane, Mid-Atlantic organizer with the conservation group Trout Unlimited. “You spend too much time around people, you need places like this close by to kind of keep your sanity.”

Along with other local environmental groups —  the Brodhead Watershed Association, Tobyhanna Creek/Tunkhannock Creek Watershed Association, Swiftwater Preserve, Buck Hill Conservancy, and Tunkanna Fishing Association — Shane and Brodhead Trout Unlimited volunteers have pushed state regulators to designate Tank Creek, and others like it in Monroe County, as “exceptional value” streams.

Last October, the DEP updated its existing use classification list, declaring that Cranberry, Paradise, Devil’s Hole, Tank, Swiftwater and Tunkhannock creeks have attained exceptional value, the highest water quality designation in the state. It grants the streams special protections.

“It’s so important to protect these headwater streams, you know, the Poconos relies so heavily on tourism to drive it economically, having places like this for people to come and see — [if] we lose this, we lose pretty much everything,” Shane said. “Nobody is gonna want to come here.”

But a group of local businessmen and landowners, who call themselves the Monroe County Clean Streams Coalition, disagree with the DEP’s classification of those streams. They appealed the decision to the Environmental Hearing Board, calling the DEP’s classification “erroneous and unsubstantiated” based on their own assessment of the stream’s water quality. The group hired an environmental consultant, which concluded the streams are not clean enough to meet the criteria for exceptional value.

>>Continue Reading the Story at StateImpact Pennsylvania

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This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WESA, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth’s energy economy.