Deer Creek Watershed Restoration Action Strategy (WRAS)

The Deer Creek WRAS was initiated by the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning in 2005 through a grant from the state to develop a watershed plan for the Deer Creek Watershed. The goal of the WRAS is to protect water quality, conserve fish and wildlife habitats, and restore those areas found to be impaired. The Deer Creek Watershed is a recognized local and state resource worthy of protection. Its many significant attributes resulted in its designation as a Maryland Scenic River in 1973. Numerous sensitive species inhabit this watershed, including the endangered Maryland Darter, the bog turtle, and brook trout. Many of the streams are designated trout waters and Tier II (high quality) waters.

Deer Creek is the largest watershed in Harford County, covering 38% of the county’s land area. This rural watershed lies outside of the county “development envelope” and is an important agricultural area of the county. The entire watershed is approximately 109,400 acres, of which 86,000 acres are within Harford County. The remainder of the watershed is in York, Pennsylvania (16,250 acres), and Baltimore County (7,150 acres).

Major land uses are agriculture (54%) and forest (31%), with developed land making up a smaller percentage (15%). Almost 38% of the watershed in Harford County is currently protected as park land or through agricultural preservation easements.

During the development of the Deer Creek WRAS, water quality and natural resource data in the watershed was collected to better understand the existing conditions and stressors that are impacting water quality and habitat. Several technical reports were completed by the state as a part of the grant and provided the foundation for the development of the WRAS. These reports included:
  • Characterization of the Watershed - A general overview of the watershed addressing such topics as:
    • Green infrastructure
    • Growth projections
    • Historic water quality
    • Land use
    • Living resources and habitat
    • Protected lands
  • Maryland Biological Stream Survey - Aquatic life in the sub-watersheds of Deer Creek was sampled to identify and prioritize areas most critical to maintain aquatic biodiversity through either restoration or preservation activities
  • Stream Corridor Assessment - 75 miles of streams were walked in the watershed identifying and mapping potential environmental issues, such as:
    • Channel alterations
    • Erosion sites
    • Fish barriers
    • Inadequate stream buffers
    • Pipe outfalls
    • Trash dumping areas
  • Synoptic Survey - a snapshot overview of the basic water chemistry of the streams in the watershed (104 sites sampled in April 2005), including:
    • Conductivity
    • Dissolved oxygen
    • Nitrate/nitrite
    • Orthophosphate
    • pH
    • Temperature
These technical reports are available on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.

Restoration and protection strategies were developed to protect and maintain the high quality areas, and improve areas that were found to be impaired. Local input and knowledge was a valuable tool in developing these strategies. A Stakeholder Committee was formed early in the process and was instrumental in the development of the plan. The Stakeholder Committee, representing interests from the agricultural, governmental, environmental, educational and business communities, along with public input, guided the development of action strategies in the plan.

KCI Technologies, Inc. was hired to assist the county in assimilating all data gathered and developing priorities for restoration and protection strategies in the watershed. The final Deer Creek WRAS was completed in July 2007. Implementation of the Deer Creek WRAS has been on-going since its completion. Keep track of our progress with implementation updates.