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 water to the 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 comprise 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instrumental in the removal of Embrey Dam on Virginia’s Rappahannock River, and are spearheading the removal of other outdated dams. 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. 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.
We also foster sound principles for funding clean water infrastructure that uses green infrastructure practices which are cost effective and work with nature rather than against it to protect clean water and keep communities safe from floods. The Delaware River is another priority river basin in the Mid-Atlantic region, where we are part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative to protect and restore clean water. We are also working to ensure that states like New Jersey and Delaware embrace natural clean water and flood protection measures as a cost-effective way to protect communities and river health.
Across the region and particularly in Pennsylvania, we are working to implement innovative stormwater policies and practices that incorporate green infrastructure practices to safeguard clean water. We are building momentum and capacity for communities to integrate nature-based solutions like riparian buffers and floodplain restoration into their flood mitigation strategies. 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.