Residents of Philadelphia now have a scenic, thriving oasis right in their own backyards. Thanks to years of hard work and investments by public and private-sector partners, Pennypack Creek is being transformed from a waterway fragmented by a series of obsolete dams to a healthy river at the center of the community.
Since 2005, three dams have been removed from Pennypack Creek. A fourth removal is slated for this year, as well as a rock-ramp fishway at a fifth barrier. The remaining two dams are being studied for fish passage alternatives. A free-flowing stream is being reborn from this former series of stagnant pools.
“A healthy river makes for a thriving community,” says American Rivers President Rebecca Wodder. “The joy of a free-flowing Pennypack Creek is not only benefiting fish and wildlife, but it’s also becoming a hub for outdoor fun.”
But humans aren’t the only ones benefiting. The construction of the Frankford Avenue dam in 1967 cut off migratory fish from their historic spawning areas in Pennypack Creek. Removal of this dam, with the help of the Environmental Stewardship Fund, means that migratory fish coming up from the Delaware River can once again access this habitat.
“This collaborative approach to restoring Pennypack Creek exemplifies the type of effective, locally driven project that the NOAA Restoration Center seeks to support,” said NOAA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere Tim Keeney. “The project improves community safety, enhances recreational opportunities, and promises to restore populations of American shad, blueback herring, hickory shad, and striped bass.”
The progress on the Pennypack has been made possible by combining hundreds of thousands of dollars in public and private funds. In addition to the Environmental Stewardship Fund, American Rivers, NOAA Restoration Center, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, FishAmerica Foundation, Philadelphia Water Department, Fairmount Parks Commission, and AquaPenn have invested in the restoration of Pennypack Creek.
American Rivers and the Fish and Boat Commission have also helped remove nearly 50 obsolete and unsafe dams statewide and restored historic fishery access to more than 315 miles of rivers. These projects were made possible by a $767,000 Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Stewardship Fund grant to American Rivers. The funding established the Free-Flowing Pennsylvania grant program, which has leveraged over $3 million in additional funding to support river restoration projects throughout Pennsylvania.