Nancy Shukaitis, a driven and inspirational woman, is best acknowledged for her instrumental role in terminating the construction of the Tocks Island Dam along the Delaware River. Shukaitis, of Monroe County, spent most of her life on her family’s generational farm and surrounding woodlands the Lenni Lenape called “Minisink”. In these forest, hills, fields, and streams is where she learned to love and treasure the natural world, making this fight personal.
In, 1962 when the Tocks Island dam project was announced, she became profoundly invested.
The proposal included flooding 62,000 acres along the Delaware River displacing more than 1,200 residents in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Although Nancy was publicly criticized in the local newspaper as a radical she prevailed. She explains, “Someone had to do it. It’s sort of like: The person who sees the smoke reports the fire.” Supported by her father, this 39 year old homemaker and mother of four attended hearings, gathered petitions, organized coalitions and slowly gained public support and a platform. In 1966, Shukaitis along with 600 landowners formed the Delaware Valley Conservation Association to sue the federal government on behalf of those being displaced; the suit was eventually dismissed .
In 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act required a comprehensive review of all federal projects and demanded more assessments and impact specifics from the Army Corps of Engineers. The passage of NEPA helped slow the progress of land acquisition and support new platforms such as the Save the Delaware Coalition. The Tocks Island dam continued to gain awareness with environmental impact reports and citizen groups. Although the project gained enough traction to removed the final “squatters” in 1974, the project was opposed 3-1 in 1975. The lands proposed to be submerged were given special federal protection in 1978 and the dam project officially abandoned in the 1990s. In the end, Nancy and Joe Shukaitis lost their land but were allowed to move their home and cabin to nearby Smithfield Township. Nancy said the silver lining to this project was the creation of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area, 72,000 acres of once condemned land.
She continues to be an inspiration to all of us while fighting for her beloved Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area. Shukaitis stopped the construction of a luxury hotel within the boundaries of a park and helped citizen groups sue PPL Corp. when the proposal of a $1.2 billion power line project through the park was initiated.
You can learn more about Shukaitis’ fight against the Tock Island Dam from the Pocono Record (http://www.poconorecord.com/article/20130923/FEATURES/309230302) (from which the photo used here was taken) and her continuing fight on the powerline construction at The Morning Call (http://articles.philly.com/1992-07-19/news/26028023_1_tocks-island-dam-project-delaware-river-project-delaware-water-gap). You can also read more about Shukaitis “In her own words” at, (https://www.nps.gov/dewa/learn/historyculture/upload/cmsnmsQUOTE.pdf)