A city surrounded by two rivers and yellow bridges.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania The City of Pittsburgh serves as the head of the Ohio River. ©: Creative Commons/Filipe Fortes

Stories in Pennsylvania

Partnering Around Pittsburgh

TNC and the Army Corps of Engineers seek healthy river flows to support wildlife and one of Pennsylvania's urban centers.

A dam is surrounded by hills blanketed in green trees.
Youghiogheny Lake and Dam The Youghiogheny Lake and Dam is located in western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. © U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Margaret Luzier

Seated at the head of the Ohio River and surrounded by the mineral-rich Allegheny Mountains, Pittsburgh has a deep history of industry and transportation. The city was an industrial powerhouse for nearly two centuries with steel, iron and coal at the center of its economic vitality.

Over the past half century, the Steel City has experienced significant changes. Technological advancements and changes in manufacturing led to huge shifts in the city’s social and economic foundation. Today, Pittsburgh is one of the country’s top destinations and most livable cities, with renowned museums, parks, medical centers and academic institutions. Economically, the city has diversified and serves as a hub for industries ranging from banking to consumer products to technology. 

Course Correction

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has oversight of the infrastructure supporting Pittsburgh’s industrial and transportation history. That means managing water storage and releases from 16 reservoirs and 23 locks and dams for navigation, water quality, recreation, flood control, hydropower and other purposes.

In response to the changing face of the city, the Corps has consulted The Nature Conservancy about updating water control plans—how much and how often water is released—to better support fish, mussels, and vegetation downstream. One example includes working together along the Youghiogheny River, downstream of the dam that is located near Confluence, PA. The Corps manages the dam for multiple purposes, including recreation, water quality, hydropower and flood control. 

Science Leads the Way

As part of its work with the Corps, TNC identified the Youghiogheny’s baseline flows—an estimate of the magnitude and timing of water volume in the river as if the dam were not in place. Then TNC presented recommendations for modifying water releases to better mimic seasonal cycles to address the needs of fish, mussels, and other aquatic plants and animals. The Corps and TNC continue to seek a balance between modifying dam releases to meet wildlife needs while redefining primary functions of the Youghiogheny Dam. The partnership also extends to other areas within the Ohio River basin.

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