Support and Protect The Lehigh River Wild Trout Fishery
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Francis E. Walter Dam was constructed on the Lehigh River in 1961 for the purpose of flood control and was not designed to support the Lehigh River’s cold-water ecosystem. In 1988, recreation became a congressionally authorized purpose of F.E.W Dam. Collaboration between USACE, conservation groups, and the public, led to the creation of annual flow plans. These annual flow plans resulted in a robust whitewater boating industry and only modest improvements to the wild and stocked trout fishery. F.E.W still does not meet the recreational needs of the angling community, the wild trout fishery and overall ecology of the River. The Re-evaluation study will need to address these issues.
Significant further improvements to the wild fishery and countless invertebrates are hindered by the dam’s structural inability to provide year-round cold-water releases, which are depleted by approximately July 1st on an annual basis. Lehigh Cold Water Fishery Alliance believes that upgrades to the structure of the dam, increased storage capacity of cold water and a new release/mixing tower would provide year-round cold-water releases that would protect and enhance the river's cold-water ecosystem and potentially create one of the nation’s greatest wild trout fisheries. We believe that this could be one of Pennsylvania's greatest environmental success stories.
Lehigh Coldwater Fishery Alliance respectfully requests That the United States Army Corps of Engineers, New York City Department of Environmental Protection and The Delaware River Basin Commission incorporate the following articles into the Re-evaulation study at Francis E. Walter Dam:
1. Be consistent in furthering the results and analysis of the USACE Lehigh River Water Quality Phase I (2009) & II (2013) Model studies to provide the USACE with a green, environmentally sound project.
2. Investigate creation of a Habitat Protection Program (HPP) for the Lehigh River from the outflow of the F.E.W Dam downstream to Jim Thorpe PA. This HPP
must include guidance and regulations for all aspects of water management to protect and enhance cold-water fisheries as well as aquatic community diversity within the Lehigh River.
3. Include an examination of structural changes to overcome the F.E.W Dam’s
inability to properly reserve and utilize the reservoir’s hypolimnion, thus limiting the
ability to release 68 F degree or lower throughout the year. 68 F degrees is the ideal upper limit for maintaining a healthy environment to support cold-water fish and
4. Ensure the continuation of fishery enhancement releases in annual flow plans to provide sufficient augmented minimum flows to support a healthy wild trout
population, aquatic ecosystem and to maintain lower downstream water temperatures.
5. Research local and regional economic impacts of a tail-water wild trout fishery from the outflow of F.E.W Dam to Northampton, PA.
6. Above all, make certain that any additional mandated functions or re-authorization of F.E.W Dam sustain and continue to enhance and protect the existing wild trout fishery within the Lehigh River, and are consistent with the PA Fish & Boat Commission guidance for the creation of a tail-water fishery.
Visit Lehigh Coldwater Fishery Alliance's Website at www.thelehighriver.org
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