US Army Corps of Engineers
Philadelphia District & Marine Design Center Website Website

Francis E. Walter Dam Reevaluation Study

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District, in partnership with the Delaware River Basin Commission and New York City Department of Environmental Protection, has initiated a feasibility re-evaluation study for Francis E. Walter Dam and Reservoir.

The primary missions of the F.E. Walter Dam are to reduce flooding risk and support recreation. Aside from these two primary missions, the study will also consider fisheries, additional recreation, water supply and water quality, to identify possible improvements to the existing structure, infrastructure, and F.E. Walter Dam operations. This study will examine whether potential improvements to infrastructure or operational methods could allow water in the reservoir to be used for additional purposes that could support the ecological health of the Delaware River Basin. In particular, the study will examine reservoir management options that could release additional water under drought conditions to help repel salinity downstream.

Alternatives Milestone Meeting

On May 28, 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the study's sponsors -- the Delaware River Basin Commission and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection -- held the Alternatives Milestone Meeting. During this meeting, the study team finalized the alternatives they will be evaluating and comparing in terms of their feasibility.


 

Frequently Asked Questions

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Philadelphia District, in partnership with the Delaware River Basin Commission and New York City Department of Environmental Protection, has initiated a feasibility re-evaluation study for the Francis E. Walter Dam. USACE will also be coordinating with a number of federal and state resource agencies throughout the study process.

Statement from the Delaware River Basin Commission:

“The DRBC has broad authority under federal and state laws to provide for the planning, conservation, utilization, development, and management of the water resources throughout the Delaware River Basin. The Lehigh River, its tributaries, and the F.E. Walter Reservoir are located within the Delaware River Basin. The DRBC’s management responsibilities include water supply, flow management, drought management, flood risk management, water quality, recreation, aquatic life, and fisheries. Therefore, any potential changes to the river flows or reservoir uses or operations are of interest to DRBC and its members, including Pennsylvania and the other basin states of Delaware, New Jersey, and New York.”

Statement from New York City Department of Environmental Protection:

“New York City owns and operates three large reservoirs on the headwaters of the Delaware River. Those reservoirs are part of a drinking water system of 19 reservoirs that provides high-quality drinking water to 9.6 million people in New York City and New York State. Those reservoirs also release a significant quantity of water downstream to support multiple objectives on the Delaware River, including cold-water fisheries, enhanced flood attenuation, and flow targets that stretch as far south as Montague and Trenton. As such, New York City plays an important role in river management, drought planning and climate change modeling on the Delaware River. New York City does not want to draw drinking water from F.E. Walter Reservoir, have control of its operations, or purchase space within the reservoir. Its interest in the study is related to drought planning in the face of sea-level rise that is accelerating due to climate change, and how the operation of reservoirs throughout the basin can help meet these future challenges.”

The primary missions of F.E. Walter Dam are to reduce flooding risk and to support recreation. Aside from these two primary missions, the study will also consider fisheries, additional recreation, water supply and water quality, to identify possible improvements to the existing structure, infrastructure, and dam operations.

This study will examine whether potential improvements to infrastructure or operational methods could allow water in the reservoir to be used for additional purposes that could support the ecological health of the Delaware River Basin. In particular, the study will examine reservoir management options that could release additional water under drought conditions to help repel salinity downstream. USACE’s role is to objectively evaluate whether various alternatives to optimize the operation of F.E. Water Reservoir are feasible and beneficial to a wide range of stakeholders. Any proposed changes must be economically justified, environmentally acceptable, and technically sound.

No, USACE will conduct the study objectively, consider all input, and analyze alternatives with sound science. Any proposed changes must be economically justified, environmentally acceptable, and technically sound. It is worth noting that some USACE studies result in a no-project recommendation; some result in  a recommended plan but don’t get authorized by Congress; and some studies/recommendations get authorized by Congress but are not funded and do not get built or implemented.

Recreation is a congressionally authorized purpose of F.E. Walter Dam. USACE has no plans to downsize the recreation program. In fact, if a modification to the dam occurs, possible future enhancements to the program will be investigated.

F.E. Walter Dam Photos

Submit Comments

Comments are accepted on an ongoing basis throughout the study process. Comments may be submitted via email or in writing:

By email: PDPA-NAP@usace.army.mil

In writing:

USACE Philadelphia District
Planning Division
100 Penn Square E.
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Background

The Francis E. Walter Dam and Reservoir Project (formerly Bear Creek Dam) was completed in 1961 as a single purpose flood control project.  The Water Resources Development Act of 1988 added recreation as another authorized purpose. The project is located on the Lehigh River, approximately 77 miles above the confluence with the Delaware River, in Carbon and Luzerne County in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  The dam has prevented more than $220 million in flood damages since its construction.