Thousands of tributaries from Appalachian mountain forests flow down to large streams aiming east to the Atlantic or west to the Ohio River basin. They tour woodlands, farms, and towns, and their leafy green shorelines link it all together. The Delaware is the only completely free-flowing mainstem eastern river, spared because American Rivers and others fought to stop Tocks Island Dam a half-century ago. The broad beautiful Susquehanna is the principal source of Chesapeake Bay. The Potomac is “the nation’s river,” from Seneca Rocks to the heart of the Capital. A panoply of freshwater fishes can be found in these streams, including trout in fertile limestone valleys and shad migrating up from the sea.
With one-third of the U.S. population within a 3-hour drive of the coast, Mid-Atlantic rivers are recreational hotspots. Weekenders flock to whitewater of the Youghiogheny, New, and Gauley, and to serene waterfronts and trails including a 185-mile bikeway along the Potomac.
Pressures for new development are intense, and in West Virginia and its neighboring states, the scourge of acid mine drainage remains from coal mining. Yet a host of pollution cleanups and dam removals—including success on Virginia’s Rappahannock—brighten the future of communities large and small, bringing once-magnificent streams back to life.
Key Issues Facing the Mid-Atlantic
American Rivers has a successful track record of conservation across the Mid-Atlantic region, and today the Rivers of the Chesapeake is one of our priority river basins. We were instrumental in the removal of Embrey Dam on Virginia’s Rappahannock River, and are spearheading the removal of other outdated dams. These restoration projects are important because they allow streams to flow freely and restore natural benefits when dams no longer function as intended or become unsafe.
In Pennsylvania, the state that leads the nation in dam removals, we partner with state government agencies and private foundations to administer millions of dollars in grants and contracts for river restoration projects. We also foster sound principles for funding programs devoted to clean water infrastructure. These principles promote green infrastructure practices which are cost effective, work with nature rather than against it, and protect clean water. We are also working to ensure that New Jersey and others states embrace natural flood protection measures as a cost-effective way to protect communities and river health.
In Maryland, we are working to implement an innovative stormwater law that incorporates green infrastructure practices to safeguard clean water. Our work optimizing effective water infrastructure is important to prepare the rivers of the Mid-Atlantic for the more frequent and intense floods and longer droughts threatened by climate change.