Public comments requested on F.E. Walter Dam Re-Evaluation Study
The F.E. Walter Dam is an Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) impoundment on the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania used primarily for flood control and recreational purposes. A new federally authorized three-year re-evaluation study sponsored by the ACOE, Delaware River Basin Commission, and New York City (NYC) is underway to explore potential new uses for the dam and the reservoir.
Potential changes could include expanded use of the reservoir to repel the northward migration of the salt front from the Delaware Bay during drought emergencies, structural alterations in the water release mechanisms to improve the cold water fishery on the Lehigh, allowing more water in the reservoir, and enlarging the dam.
Of particular interest to FUDR, our conservation partners, and UDR anglers is how water release and/or structural modifications at F.E. Walter could impact water releases and aquatic habitat in the Upper Delaware River (UDR).
FUDR presented oral comments at a very large public meeting last week in White Haven, PA hosted by the ACOE. As we noted in our comments, of paramount importance is that any changes at F.E. Walter that might occur as a result of the re-evaluation study do not cause any reductions of UDR water releases from the NYC Delaware basin reservoirs under any circumstances.
FUDR and our partners have long advocated for support from NYC below the Delaware water supply system reservoirs since we believe the operations of their Delaware River water supply system has significant impacts below the dams. NYC has always been cautious about engaging below the dams but they are beginning to make some important contributions particularly by lending support to our efforts to raise funds for stream protection projects in the tailwaters.
It’s interesting to note that NYC is one of the primary funders of the re-evaluation study because of their interest in addressing climate change and studying alternatives for salt front management. Last week, NYCDEP was well represented in White Haven (well below their dams) seeking support for their interests. We hope this is a sign of a continuing recognition that the “NYC Watershed” is actually part of the Delaware River watershed and we all need to work together to advance our mutual watershed protection interests.
At this early stage in the process, it’s also important to thoroughly explore the possibilities of improving aquatic habitat and water quality conditions in both the UDR and the Lehigh River as a tradeoff if more water will be made available to the lower Delaware River basin.
Please consider sending in comments on the F.E. Walter Re-Evaluation Study with this simple message:
“Any changes made at F.E. Walter as a result of the re-evaluation study should improve conditions in both the UDR coldwater ecosystem and the Lehigh River watershed. Under no circumstances should water releases in the Upper Delaware River be reduced as a result of the re-evaluation study.”
To see National TU’s letter of recommendations to the USACE, click here.