Tocks Island Dam Controversy

Floods can have devastating consequences. Take the flood of 1955, when Hurricanes Connie and Diane hit the eastern seaboard of the United States. The Pocono area of Pennsylvania was hit hard; nearly 100 people were killed along the banks of Broadhead Creek alone. In response, Congress asked the Army Corps of Engineers to determine the viability of constructing dams and reservoirs along the Delaware River, including a dam at the southern tip of Tocks Island.

Had the dam been constructed, it would have created a lake-sized reservoir nearly 40-miles long and a mile wide. 600 families and property owners, many who had lived on and worked the land for centuries, would have been displaced. Fields, forests, and homes alike would have been submerged.

But a few people started pushing back against the project in 1964. By 1971, the project was an uproar. New studies challenged the notion that it was a good idea to change a flowing river into a stagnant body of water. Decision-makers balked at the projected costs. In 1975, members of the Delaware River Basin Commission voted to forgo the Tocks Island Dam project. A movie about the failed project can be seen here.

The land that had already been purchased by the federal government was turned over to the National Park Service. Instead of a narrow strip of land around a large water body, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area was formed, comprised of 70,000-acre park with 40 miles of protected free-flowing river.