Spotlight on the Lehigh River

The Morning Call is running a series on the Lehigh River, recounting its history and the efforts toward watershed protection. Many in the Lehigh Valley consider the river to be a distinct part of their childhood. It seems that spending time by the Lehigh River was a common activity in the region. But it wasn’t always the safest river to play in — that is, until local activists got involved.

The Call reports:

It was just about 40 years ago, around the time of the first Earth Day, that environmental concerns translated into action across the country and along the Lehigh. Government and public activism, the demise of heavy industry and natural cleansing began undoing decades of abuse, and the Valley’s most significant natural resource underwent a remarkable turnaround.

Today, the Lehigh River is healthier than it’s been in any living person’s memory. Bald eagles, osprey and herons now populate its banks. Trout, bass, muskellunge and the bugs on which they feed can be found in abundance. Canoeists, kayakers and rafters routinely ply the waters.

The article also touches upon the much-debated issue of drilling for Marcellus Shale in the Commonwealth.

Proposals to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation around the Lehigh’s headwaters in Wayne County also present a serious challenge to the river. The extraction process uses huge amounts of water, and in places where wells already have been drilled, waterways have been seriously degraded.

”I never thought we’d have [a threat] up there,” said Lehigh River Stocking Association President Matt MacConnell.

But the Lehigh now has many eyes watching out for its welfare. MacConnell’s organization has a water quality monitor that provides real-time data posted on the Internet. The conservancy works with an alphabet soup of state and federal agencies to protect the watershed. Water-dependent commercial businesses and environmental groups hold the Army corps accountable for long-term water flow, which is important for fishing, rafting and the river’s overall health.

Do you have fond memories of the Lehigh River? If so, share them below.

(Relatedly, if you’re interested in learning about RenewLV’s Regional Water Initiative, visit our website and sign up as a supporter on our Join Us page.)

About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on April 26, 2010, in Urbanism, Water and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Was on the river during. The time John Smicker was pres. Of the flick boat club . And the river days , check for more info on the club

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