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Harrisburg, PA – A vibrant, cold-water “Class A” fishery in its middle and upper reaches, and a waterway that attracts more paddlers every year, the Lackawanna River in northeastern Pennsylvania has been voted the state’s 2020 River of the Year.

“Emerging from a record number of public votes, the Lackawanna is most deserving of the River of the Year honor, as are the many supporting groups that rallied around it,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “All five nominees are to be saluted, as they and their proponents again helped shine a spotlight on our state’s wealth of rivers and streams, and the core of dedicated folks who fight hard to protect them.”

DCNR and Pennsylvania Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR) will work with the Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA) to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the Lackawanna River as the 2020 PA River of the Year. 

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association will receive a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund a slate of year-long 2020 River of the Year activities.

“We are very — you could say extremely — pleased to be recognized as the PA River of the Year for 2020”, said Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA) Executive Director Bernard McGurl. “This honor is a strong validation of our community’s work over the past 30 years to rediscover the incredible natural resource that is the Lackawanna River. The vision for a revitalized river that has been shared by the Lackawanna River Conservation Association has been taken to heart by more and more of our fellow citizens every year!”

Before joining the Susquehanna River, the Lackawanna River flows 60 miles through Susquehanna, Wayne, Lackawanna and Luzerne counties. The waterway had been adversely impacted by the anthracite coal mining industry and railroad, industrial, and urban development over the past 200 years. With the abandonment of the anthracite mines in the 1960s and the development of modern sanitary sewage treatment works, the river has staged a strong recovery.

The LRCA was created by local citizens in 1987 to promote restoration and conservation of the Lackawanna River and its watershed resources in northeast Pennsylvania. LRCA is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization promoting the river through education, public involvement, consensus building, partnerships and hands-on opportunities for all ages. Since 1987, LRCA has worked with other community groups and public agencies to plan and promote projects addressing water pollution, recreation, community development, land and water conservation, public involvement, and public policy decision-making that affects the river and its watershed.

In cooperation with DCNR, selection of public voting choices was overseen by the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

POWR administers the River of the Year program with funding from DCNR. Presented annually since 1983, the 2019 River of the Year designation was awarded to the Clarion River in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The public was invited to vote online, choosing from among five waterways nominated across the state. Other waterways nominated were Brandywine Creek, Buffalo Creek, Connoquenessing Creek and the Ohio River.

“POWR would like to commend everyone across the commonwealth for their support for the nominated waterways,” said Janet Sweeney, POWR. “Enthusiasm for River of the Year continues to grow, with this year being a record public voting turnout. This program truly is a wonderful opportunity to showcase all the nominated waterways and the great work being done in Pennsylvania communities on these valuable resources.”

A commemorative River of the Year sojourn is among many paddling trips supported by DCNR and POWR each year. An independent program, the Pennsylvania Sojourn Program, is a unique series of a dozen such trips on the state’s rivers. These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism and heritage values of rivers. Additional information about the sojourn program can be found at the Pennsylvania Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR) website.

More information about the River of the Year, nominated waterways and past winners can be found at the Pennsylvania River of the Year website.

For more information on conservation of Pennsylvania’s waterways, visit DCNR’S Rivers Conservation web page.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Terry Brady, 717-705-2225; tbrady@pa.gov

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