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Tocks Island Dam, the Delaware River and the end of the big-dam era

by Bloodworth, Gina.

Abstract (Summary)
iii The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area sits in the backyard of both New York City and Philadelphia. What seemed to be a universally supported water policy to build a major dam across the Delaware River precipitated instead to one of the most contentious regional fights over water policy and dam building in the East. Had the dam been built, it would have been the eighth largest dam project ever attempted by the Corps of Engineers. The resulting reservoir was slated to inundate approximately forty miles of valley along the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border, up to its border with New York State. In this densely populated and rapidly urbanized watershed basin, echoes of power struggles and environmental crisis rippled throughout the Atlantic seaboard from New York City to Washington D.C. Utilizing a mixed qualitative methodology that includes interviews, archival and legal research, and content analysis of multiple media sources, this dissertation examines how the Tocks Island Dam project came about, and how it fell apart after three decades of controversy, dissent, coalitions, propaganda wars, legal maneuvering, and chaos. This research provides a textural understanding of how the Delaware River became the nexus of conflicts between multiple and overlapping scales of water managers, large government institutions such as the Corps of Engineers and various alliances of stakeholders within a unique location in time and space. Uniquely situated chronologically as well as geographically, the fight over the Tocks Island Dam occurred during the tumultuous decades before and after the landmark environmental legislation of iv the 1970s, and during the end of the Big Dam Era. The transition from the previous damcentered era of water policy in America to the more eco-centric era of environmental protection produced the most radical change in national water management directions in the last century. And during this transformation in national policy, the fate of Tocks Island Dam and the Delaware River became entangled in, and contributed to those larger social changes. Today the resulting compromise of the decades-long struggle over water in the Delaware River, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, is by far the most visited park east of the Mississippi River in the National Park system. However, the original dilemmas about flood control, drought control, drinking water, and water quality still lurk in the backdrop of water tensions and will most certainly reassert themselves in the future.
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School:Pennsylvania State University

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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