Watershed Plan Case Study

Upper Susquehanna

Susquehanna River Watershed

Jim Curatolo, Watershed Coordinator for the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, identifies two key components in developing management opportunities within a watershed. One is to have a point person that develops and provides the link between and among a network of interested and involved citizens throughout the watershed and a network of interested governmental agencies. The second is having access to a Geographic Information System (GIS).

Jim, who coordinated the efforts of the Upper Susquehanna Coalition with a broad network of local citizens and local government agencies, sees GIS as a valuable tool for mobilizing activities, pushing projects forward, advocating for funds, and implementing projects throughout the watershed’s 15 counties. Working with area farmers, best management practices were implemented on local farms, reducing nutrient and sediment loads to the Susquehanna River and its tributaries.

To address chronic flooding within the watershed and the associated problems of erosion, habitat loss, and water quality degradation, the Coalition used GIS to gather information about the watershed, track changes over time, and locate potential wetland creation and restoration opportunities. By storing flood waters, wetlands provide for groundwater recharge and slow runoff during storm events.

The resulting wetlands program focuses on creating and restoring wetlands in key locations throughout the watershed. The wetlands provide flood attenuation and improve habitat, water quality, and recreational opportunities. The wetlands program has been successful in completing many projects, including a 40-acre wetland complex in the Seeley Creek watershed among the over 400 acres already constructed. These wetland creation projects also enhance in-stream habitat in the Susquehanna River’s tributaries by helping to dampen high velocity stream flows that tend to erode streambanks.

The Upper Susquehanna Coalition has also been instrumental in developing several watershed management plans. As headwaters of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, watershed management in the Catatonk and Seeley Creeks benefit downstream water quality beyond their own watersheds. Both plans represent a strategic process to managing flooding, habitat degradation, and streambank erosion. With prioritized projects and opportunities for restoration and protection, these plans not only address water quality within the Catatonk and Seeley Creek watersheds, but address issues that are important for the entire Chesapeake Bay.

This case study appears in Chapter 4 of the Watershed Plans Guidebook.