No federal funding to dredge the Schuylkill River

The river restoration committee is looking at a Plan B.

Pat Loeb
July 03, 2018 - 7:13 am
A crew team rows on the Schuylkill River.

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia's rowing association and local elected officials have been working for several years to get the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Schuylkill River, but in a final decision, the Corps has issued a resounding "no" to funding for the project. 

The Schuylkill has not been dredged in 18 years and Paul Laskow of the Schuylkill Navy's river restoration committee says putting it off any longer is not an option.

"We believe there would not be safe access to the river from Boathouse Row, say, 15 months from now," Laskow said, which could mean an end to some of Philadelphia's prestigious regattas.

"It's a tremendous blow to civic pride, but apart from that, in purely economic terms, the regattas produce about a million dollars a day in economic activity," Laskow said. 

Historically, the river has suffered from lack of funding. In 1934, when the city stopped dredging during the Depression, the river was all but unusable along Boathose Row, as shown in the photo here.

Boathouse Row, 1934
Temple Archives, George McDowell Bulletin Photographs

The Schuylkill Navy says there's no appeal to the Corps' decision, so it's looking at another source of funding. They are asking the six universities that row on the river — Penn, Drexel, Temple, St. Joe's, LaSalle and Jefferson — to provide the estimated $4 million it will take to get it back in shape. 

"We look to the collegiate rowing programs to do a significant, material part of the funding," Laskow said. "Obviously, the universities are not eager, they have not expressed an eagerness anyway, to do that." 

However, Laskow says, they're instrumental. "Any other philanthropic source is going to ask, 'Well, what have the major stakeholders done?'"

Laskow says after the river is restored, the Schuylkill Navy would create a fund for maintenance dredging so conditions don't deteriorate to the point they have now.