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A Northeast Region Program

Dennis Reidenbach
Regional Director

 

 

The Lower Delaware: Wild and Scenic?

If you have only seen the Delaware River through the window of a car; you might be surprised to learn the window is a Wild and Scenic River. The river offers a beautiful background for most of the views from the roads that run alongside, but it does not look very natural-much less wild-from an automobile.




Escape on the River

The view from the river is quite different than one imagines from the road. Water and trees dominate the landscape. When you are on this lovely, quiet river, it is hard to believe that the homes, offices and shops of 20 million people are within a few hours drive. The man-made world seems far away.

22 Years to Designation

The Upper Delaware stretching 78 miles between Hancock, New York and the Delaware Water Gap entered the Wild and Scenic program in 1978. Soon after, a proposed dam on other free-flowing portions of the river prompted Congress to designate 37 miles along the Middle Delaware which flows through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and is managed as a unit of the National Park Service.

Some 22 years later, a plan to pump 100 million gallons of water a day from the lower reaches of the river spurred the Delaware River Greenway Partnership to seek designation for the Lower Delaware as a Partnership Wild and Scenic River. Congress passed the desgination in November 2000.

Wild and Scenic Status Inspires Locals

Wild and Scenic status has raised public consciousness of the national importance of the river and improved communication among the Lower Delaware River communities. The Lower Delaware River study and its designation have inspired a number of local efforts to protect the natural, historic, and scenic and recreational resources that made the river eligible for designation. For instance, largely as a result of the Study process, the state acquired Hendrick Island a natural oasis of more than 100 acres in Solebury Township, and designated several other state-owned islands as a Pennsylvania Natural Area.

Since designation, a committee has formed to oversee implementation of the goals of the management plan written by state and local officials, businesses, and citizens, and the river corridor is alive with activity. The committee and the Greenway Partnership are conducting a stream corridor restoration projects, preparing open space and recreation plans, and developing a landower stewardship program.

5-Year Water Quality Study

A particularly important initiative has been launched by the interstate Delaware River Basin Commission. They have formed a committee to oversee a 5-year study of the water quality in the Lower Delaware. The Commission is also considering awarding "Special Protection Waters" status to the Lower Delaware. This status is an important step in providing even more protection to the river's water quality which is one of the resources for which it received designation.

Grants Awarded

The committee awarded municipal incentive grants last summer to encourage action at the local level. "The municipal incentive grant program is a great way to get municipalities to actively participate in implementing the River Management Plan," says Jim Amon, chairman of the Management Committee. "It helps us demonstrate why designation of the river is a good thing."

 


July 18, 2008