TOWN HALL, HANCOCK, NY – At a recent meeting of state and local elected officials from New York and Pennsylvania and major conservation organizations from New York State, Pennsylvania and New York City, the Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR) announced a major long-term tributary and floodplain restoration program for the Upper Delaware watershed to begin in early 2006. The organization has already engaged the services of LandStudies, Inc., an environmental engineering firm specializing in floodplain restoration. The company has collaborated with both Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the University of Louisville in Kentucky in conducting its research.

According to Craig Findley, president of FUDR, “We’ve learned that over the past three centuries, man has drastically altered the flow patterns of virtually all of the Delaware’s tributaries. Restoring these streams to their historical condition not only will enhance wild trout spawning, improve aquatic insect life and reduce pollution, but also will, by more fully utilizing the region’s natural flood plains, contribute to flood minimization. FUDR believes that this new program is a central part of a comprehensive fisheries plan, a vital concern to the region’s landowners and residents, and is a key to restoring the area’s natural ecology.”

While agricultural practices, sewerage treatment facilities and urban development often contribute to today’s tributary and watershed problems, most of the problems in the Upper Delaware Watershed actually stem from early settlement and early industrial development dating as far back as the early 1700s.

“During early settlement and on through the rapid urbanization from the 18th century to well into the early 20th century,” says LandStudies President Mark Gutshall, “much of the vegetation disappeared as a result of land clearing for timber, agriculture and settlements. This caused massive erosion, with those sediments and pollutants settling behind milldams and in floodplains. Today, because of this “legacy sediment,” floodplains and stream banks that typically should be 12 to 18 inches high are three to 20 feet higher than historical levels. The result is bank erosion during storm events and long-term effects on fish and other aquatic life due to increased turbidity and increased levels of sediments and nutrients being transported downstream. These circumstances are evident throughout the Delaware River watershed.”

FUDR’s new program, to be implemented by LandStudies, offers a long-term, comprehensive floodplain restoration strategy for the Upper Delaware watershed that focuses on the main stem and its major and smaller tributaries in both New York and Pennsylvania. Individual restoration projects will be selected based on objectively determined criteria.

“Supplementing Mark’s outstanding team of environmental engineers,” said Findley, “will be a team of FUDR experts in aquatic biology, fisheries, entomology and riparian structure – a truly outstanding combination of human resources.”

According to Gutshall, the long-term initiative will provide many direct benefits to the health and ecology of the main stem and its tributaries, including:

-Reducing erosive, in-channel forces

-Reducing flood elevations

-Reducing sediment and nutrient transport downstream

-Increasing wetland habitat

-Increasing groundwater recharge

-Maintaining proper in-channel temperatures and base flows

-Providing stable trout spawning areas

-Increasing trout passage upstream in areas having sediment barriers, and

-Enhancing the full array of floral and faunal communities, thereby creating a functioning and balanced food web.

Concludes Findley, “Certainly, the overall initiative requires the advice and support of both local and state officials, local communities and public and private landowners. And at least as important is the need for private and public contributions that will enable FUDR to implement individual tributary projects. Like our legal and other scientific efforts, this new tributary initiative, is another example of FUDR’s long-term commitment to both the health of the fisheries and to the broader, but no less critical, concerns of the entire watershed.” See the Plan here


Craig Findley (315) 656-8313; cfindlleyff@rwcny.rr.com

Mark Gutshall (717) 627-4440; mark@landstudies.com

Lee Hartman (215) 872-7305; isff@ezaccess.net