HOWARD, Pennsylvania - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, has announced that it is discontinuing its study in collaboration with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to make operational modifications at Foster J. Sayers Dam to sustain aquatic habitat during historical low-flow conditions. Current operations will be maintained.
“We feel it is not in the federal interest to continue to spend additional federal funding on further evaluation,” said Anastasiya Kononova, Baltimore District project manager. “Based on findings from the modeling and environmental analysis of various alternatives, environmental benefits could occur from adjusting releases during low flows, but these benefits are marginal.”
The intent of the study was to investigate the potential to sustain aquatic habitat during historical low-flow conditions during the months of July – November through the development of alternatives that modify amounts and timing of water releases when triggered. Aquatic species may benefit from operations that supply more water during these extreme low flows since dams can affect natural flow patterns to downstream rivers.
For the alternatives that were not immediately eliminated due to clear impacts to the dam’s primary purposes of flood risk management or recreation, the highest approximate environmental benefit to targeted species during low flows above the baseline (or existing operations) is 12 percent. Three targeted species were modeled as part of this effort: brown trout, smallmouth bass and longnose dace.
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission made a formal request to the Corps for the study at Sayers in 2012, and the study kicked off in 2016. Evaluation of alternate operation of Corps reservoirs is within the Commission’s Comprehensive Plan, and similar studies have been completed at other Corps reservoirs, including implementable projects at Cowanesque, Curwensville and Whitney Point. The Commission requested a study at Sayers because of its similarity to Whitney Point in sizeable storage and annual fall/winter drawdown.
“Although we are concluding this study, we don’t want to discount the work our partner has done to get us to this point,” said Kononova. “The Commission spent months performing research and running models as part of this effort, and a lot of valuable information has been collected that could benefit the region in the future.”
Based on the modeling results and public feedback, the Corps has decided not to hold the public workshop originally planned for later this spring. Members of the Corps team attended the Howard Borough Council meeting May 14 to inform them of the discontinuation of the study.
“This study shows that the public process works,” said Col. Ed Chamberlayne, Baltimore District commander. “We listened to and considered the feedback received from stakeholders and members of the public through various means like our initial public workshop, attendance at borough council meetings and email study status updates. This feedback played a critical role in our decision to conclude the study in addition to the modeling results.”
“We learned a lot throughout this process, and we sincerely appreciate everyone who provided data and invaluable historical knowledge of this region and led site visits,” said Kononova. “We remain committed to ensuring Foster Joseph Sayers continues to provide effective flood risk management and recreation benefits to the area.”