A concrete dam empties water into a river.
Kinzua Dam The Kinzua Dam is located in Warren County, Pennsylvania. © Nicholas A. Tonelli


Dam release from Allegheny River’s Kinzua Dam will help scientists learn more about endangered mussel habitat.

Conservation groups and the U.S. Army Corps to measure and evaluate and model underwater river conditions.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will release water from the Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River October 22-25. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will use sonar to measure and record the shape of the river bottom to better understand and evaluate underwater conditions for fish and mussels.

The test release is within the normal flow range and will not affect river conditions for recreation or landowners along the river. This is part of a multi-year joint effort by the Corps and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to help the Corps manage flows from their dams along the Allegheny River to better mimic the natural flows of the river.

“This is an incredible opportunity to learn about ways we can continue to improve the environment through innovative operations of our reservoirs,” said Col. Andrew “Coby” Short, commander, Pittsburgh District. “We're thankful for the strong partnership we enjoy with The Nature Conservancy, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service. Their expertise and participation is vital to the work we do every day to enhance the quality of the environment and the quality of life for citizens of this region.”

The Nature Conservancy is working with the Corps through the Sustainable Rivers Program to better use man-made infrastructure and water projects along with natural features as part of a whole-river system to provide us with better water supply, more hydropower and lower flood risk – all while improving the natural habitats for local wildlife.

Along with the Corps, TNC, and WPC and other partners, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the U.S. Forest Service are contributing to the project.  

“This is a unique opportunity to better gain an understanding of the habitat of one of the most densely populated reaches for freshwater mussels in the Allegheny River,” said Eric Chapman, director of aquatic science at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.  

“The Allegheny River is one of the healthiest rivers in the larger Ohio River system that millions of people and wildlife depend on for water, power and natural habitat, so it’s important that we continue developed new methods to support natural flows,” said Brad Maurer, Restoration Engineer at the Conservancy’s Pennsylvania Chapter. “We are thankful for our partnership with the Corps of Engineers, as well as support from companies such as Tom’s of Maine for their commitment to helping people, communities and the planet.”       

The Allegheny River is 325 miles long. The Allegheny River watershed, which includes tributaries Conewango Creek, French Creek, and the Clarion River, covers over 11,500 square miles in Pennsylvania and New York.   

On October 29-November 1, the group will conduct a similar study in Tidioute, Pa., approximately eight miles from the initial site to gain additional information about mussel habitat along the river.

Kinzua Dam releases influence almost 200 miles of the Allegheny River. Along with Kinzua Dam, the Army Corps of Engineers operates eight lock and dam systems on the Allegheny River and four other dams in the Allegheny watershed.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Enacted in 1968, the act has protected over 12,700 miles of rivers in the U.S. A total of 87 miles of the Allegheny was designated Wild & Scenic in 1992, which has contributed to the popular recreational use of the river for boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and birding.

About the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District/Pittsburgh District’s 26,000 square miles include portions of western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia, eastern Ohio, western Maryland and southwestern New York within the Upper Ohio River Basin. Our jurisdiction includes more than 328 miles of navigable waterways, 23 navigation locks and dams, 16 multi-purpose reservoirs, 42 local flood protection projects and other projects to protect and enhance the nation’s water resources, infrastructure and environment.

The district’s additional missions include water supply, emergency response, and regulation of the Clean Water Act. The Corps often partners with local communities to improve water supply, sanitary sewer and storm water infrastructure. During disasters, the district manages the nation’s emergency power contract which provides temporary power to downed critical infrastructure. District personnel deploy overseas to help build, manage and administer water resource infrastructure projects.

About the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Nature Conservancy/Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy is the world's leading conservation organization. In Pennsylvania, the Conservancy has protected more than 97,000 acres of conservation lands and owns and manages 13,000 acres of nature preserves across the state. 

About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy/Established in 1932, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy enhances the region by protecting and restoring exceptional places. WPC has helped to establish 10 state parks, conserved more than a quarter million acres of land, protected or restored more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams, owns and operates Fallingwater, and enriches our region’s cities and towns through 132 community gardens and other green spaces. For more information, visit WaterLandLife.org or Fallingwater.org.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.