Bethlehem, PA – The mayor of Bethlehem, John B. Callahan, will hold a press conference concerning the removal of the Saucon Park Dam tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22, at 1:00 pm at Saucon Park. (Directions are at the end of this release.)
The Saucon Park Dam was built in the 1920s for recreational purposes, but currently this dilapidated structure only exacerbates localized flooding and erosion. Flooding of the field, playground, and residential areas surrounding the park has been an ongoing problem. Its removal this month will restore Saucon Creek, the only creek on Bethlehem’s south side, which is also the first tributary to the Lehigh River.
The dam removal and other restoration work on Saucon Creek is expected to alleviate some of the localized flooding by restoring the stream to its natural state, re-establishing more natural flow conditions, and eliminating a public safety hazard and liability. While Saucon Park may still have some flooding, this project should reduce the frequency of those floods. Additionally, the project will also reconnect three miles of important spawning habitat for fish such as American shad, American eel, alewife, blueback herring, hickory shad, brown trout, brook trout, redbreast sunfish, and white sucker. This strategy is integral to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s efforts to rebuild depleted fish stocks in the Delaware and Lehigh river basins.
Pennsylvania is a national leader in river restoration and has removed more outdated dams (more than 150) than any other state in the country.
“By removing this obsolete dam we are giving the people of Bethlehem a valuable asset—a healthy, thriving river,” said Sara Strassman of American Rivers. “When we make our rivers healthy, they can benefit communities by supplying clean water, fish and wildlife, flood protection, and new recreation and economic opportunities.”
“Most barriers have the same general impact on fish: blocking their spawning migrations. Yet each requires a specific set of conservation actions,” said Jim Balsiger, Acting Assistant Administrator of the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. “By removing this dam, a wide variety of fish can now move freely between their ocean and river habitat.”
“I applaud the City of Bethlehem Parks Department for taking the lead to correct the ongoing erosion of the Saucon Creek and partnering with American Rivers to ameliorate water flow conditions through the Saucon Park area,” said Bethlehem Mayor Callahan. “We continue our commitment to be strong conservationists and connect people to our valued natural resources. The removal of the Saucon Park Dam further enhances the resources and ensures it will be there for future generations to nurture and enjoy”, he added.
American Rivers provided $25,000 to this removal as part of a national partnership between American Rivers and the NOAA Restoration Center. Since its inception in 2001, the collaboration between American Rivers and NOAA has resulted in more than $2 million being invested in more than 100 projects that provide passage for migratory fish. Removing an obsolete, harmful dam can also help a community by improving public safety, reducing flood damage, saving money, increasing economic opportunities, restoring overall river health, improving water quality, and boosting community resiliency to climate change. Pennsylvania currently leads the nation in dam removal projects and eleven dams have already been removed in Pennsylvania this year.
Directions to the Press Conference: From I-78W, take the Hellertown/PA-412 exit and turn right off the exit toward Bethlehem. Look for Millside Drive on your left in about 1/4 mile. Saucon Park is located at the end of Millside Road and the dam is located near the far end of the parking lots.
Visit the American Rivers' Flickr page to see an image of the Saucon Park flooding.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.