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April 20, 2014
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Managing the Lackawaxen River; For electricity and recreation

Scheduled releases of water from the dam at Lake Wallenpaupack cascade through these huge pipes to turn turbines in PPL’s hydroelectric plant at Kimbles, PA. The water then rushes into the Lackawaxen River with various consequences for recreational users of the river downstream from the power plant.
Photo courtesy PPL

By Katie Lester

As my kayak hits the Lackawaxen and Delaware Rivers each spring, I am reminded of nature’s beauty and why I love living in this region of northeast Pennsylvania. Each time my boat passes a bald eagle nest or a screeching great blue heron, I appreciate the opportunity to recreate in such peaceful waters.

As an employee of Pennsylvania Power & Light (PPL) at Lake Wallenpaupack, I am always reminded of the partnership between industry and nature. Oftentimes, they go hand in hand. For instance, through PPL’s 2005 relicensing to operate a hydroelectric plant downstream from the dam at Lake Wallenpaupack, many programs were put in place to enhance and provide recreation, not only on the big lake, but also on the Lackawaxen River downstream of the plant.

On six consecutive Fridays starting on or after July 1 each year, PPL facilitates boating release days along the Lackawaxen River. Another two weekend days in September or October are also offered.

By modifying power generation schedules and using water from Lake Wallenpaupack, PPL has the ability to make sure that the river has adequate flow for such an event. People come from all over to get the chance to kayak or raft this normally shallow and serene river. This is one of several ways PPL is able to use Lake Wallenpaupack to support recreation and wildlife habitat while generating clean, renewable electricity.

In addition, PPL partners with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to enhance river conditions for trout maintenance, growth and survival by ensuring that the Lackawaxen River can be preserved as a cold water fishery. The program consists of managing power generation from PPL’s Wallenpaupack hydroelectric plant during the summer to keep water temperatures downstream of the plant below 75 degrees. The specific area managed for temperature is between River Mile 4 (Route 590 bridge at Rowland) and River Mile 10.

The cooler water provides a more beneficial habitat for wild trout, as well as for the trout stocked by the commission. The program typically runs between May and September, when water temperatures in the Lackawaxen River are most likely to exceed 75 degrees.

Fishermen, rafters, boaters and anyone else who uses the Lackawaxen River for recreation are often interested in water conditions. When the hydroelectric plant is generating, the amount of water in the river increases rapidly. River users should check when the plant is generating to stay safe.