US Army Corps of Engineers
Philadelphia District & Marine Design Center

Francis E. Walter Dam Re-evaluation Study

Published July 8, 2014
The Francis E. Walter Dam was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1961 and has prevented more than $220 million in flood damages. It also supports recreation in the Lehigh Valley with planned fishing and whitewater rafting water releases.

The Francis E. Walter Dam was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1961 and has prevented more than $220 million in flood damages. It also supports recreation in the Lehigh Valley with planned fishing and whitewater rafting water releases.

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS: PA-7, 8, 9

AUTHORITY: Section 216 of the Flood Control Act of 1970

PROJECT GOALS: The purpose of this project is focused on flood reduction, and recreation. Additional demands will also be considered for cold water fishery improvements, and alternatives for water supply and low flow augmentation as related to repelling salinity intrusion above the Delaware River Estuary.

DESCRIPTION: The study is authorized by Section 216 of the Flood Control Act of 1970 to investigate project modifications based on changed economic conditions. Per ER 1165-2-119 (Project Modification Guidance) Congressional authorization is required for structural modifications or operations unless no change to meeting existing authorized purposes of Flood Risk Management and Recreation.

The study will focus primarily on the originally authorized purposes of flood damage reduction and down stream recreational releases, with additional consideration given to associated environmental, water supply, low flow augmentation and in-lake recreational opportunities, to identify possible improvements to the existing structure, infrastructure, and operations. The FE Walter Dam was authorized by the 1946 Flood Control Act and constructed for Flood Damage Reduction in 1961. The project has provided $256,000,000 in flood damage prevention since its inception. USACE began operating with limited releases specifically for whitewater recreation in 1968 and an additional Recreation authorization was subsequently added in WRDA 1988. Annual operating plans are developed each year based on storage availability which currently support an estimated $37,000,000/year tourism industry.

An Initial Appraisal Report was completed in July 2015 which concluded that that permanent changes to storage authorization, operations, or physical modifications were needed to maximize benefits for current and future recreational, water quality, and water supply needs. PA Fish & Boat Commission and PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources sponsored water quality modeling through the USACE Section 22, Planning Assistances to States Program. The USACEEngineering Research and Development Center completed the modeling in April 2014 which determined the feasibility of alternative storage elevations and modified tower ports to discharge colder, more oxygenated water for fisheries improvements and increased discharge frequency to maximize recreational releases. A General Design Memorandum for F.E. Walter Dam was also completed in 1985, which investigated authorized purposes and projected future demands through CY 2000. The recommended 1985 plan included increasing the dam height by 30 feet to provide an additional 70,000 acre feet of storage, primarily for permanent improvement to downstream and in-lake recreation as well as storage for water supply and low flow augmentation. The estimate cost of the 1985 plan was $112,000,000 (Oct 84 Price Level) which included $2,200,000 for recreational improvements. Over 4,000 acres of additional real estate acquisitions and easements were identified within the proposed project’s flood storage inundation pool.

PROJECT MANAGER: Dan Caprioli