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Study Looks At Altering Lehigh River Dams

Easton area dam removal could help fish population, but there are obstacles to making those changes.

It's called the "Lehigh River Fish Passage Improvement Feasbility Study."

That's kind of a mouthful of a title, but the idea behind it is simple: How do we get more fish into the river?

One possible answer could be to alter or remove two dams along the Lehigh: the Lehigh Dam, where the river meets the Delaware in Easton, and the Chain Dam, near .

But at a meeting Thursday at , the people behind the study stressed that such a project only exists on paper so far. The group has met with local officials, and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

"No one's agreed to anything beyond that. No one’s agreed to removing a dam or pumping water into a canal or anything like that," said Leroy Young of the state Fish and Boat Commission. "This will take years."

Changing or removing the dams has a number of problems, officials said in a presentation Thursday.

If the dams were completely removed, that would affect sewer lines in the river. The Easton Sewer Authority told the authors of the study that it would cost $1 million to replace those lines, although that figure is a very loose estimate.

"And they service a huge area," said Nate Hoffman, a consultant with KCI, which conducted the study. "Easton, Palmer Townshp, it’s a giant area."

Beyond that, changes to the dams could impact bridges over the river, whether a full or "partial removal" was involved, because of the erosion that would take place.

The study has federal backing from both the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Superfund program, the Express-Times reported Wednesday. The paper notes that any decisions on the dams will be up to their owners: the city of Easton and the DCNR.

Young said the goal here is to "rethink the whole approach" to to the Lehigh River, to the point where 500,000 fish were passing the Easton Dam.

"We're not there yet," Young said.

another point of view August 24, 2012 at 11:52 PM
The old adage "let sleeping dogs . . " applies. These dams must be almost two hundred years old. Taking them out may uncover a curse like King Tut's tomb. We may awaken our own version of the Loch Ness Monster or the "Creature from the Black Lagoon'. We might find answers to a host of unsolved mysteries. Maybe even a Judge Crater with new concrete shoes. Or, something of real value- the "Holy Grail". It seems that the results are an almost 25 feet drop in the Lehigh river and a lot of exposed sewer lines and loosened bridge supports. The dams fed the canals. I suppose the canals end up as stagnant pools of skeeter dung. It all seems great in the name of environment, but in reality the world has survived quite well as is. Maybe the fish are not really interested in navigating the Lehigh. If that is the case this effort may be nothing more than a grandiose scheme of wasting taxpayer money. The removal of the dams may end in the destruction of one of the finest water overlooks in the world.

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