The Tocks Island Dam Controversy
Following the disastrous flooding on the Delaware River in 1955, the Army Corps of Engineers secured Congressional approval to build a dam just above the Delaware Water Gap, at a location called Tocks Island.
The results were equally disastrous, with thousands of people being displaced from their small farms and homes in a quiet, largely unrecognized, area of Northwestern New Jersey and Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Grossly underfunded, the project encountered stiff opposition, was a focus of the start of the environmental movement, and the dam was never built. Left behind was a National Recreation Area faced with more responsibilities than it could cope with.
Jim tells the story, recognizing the early Leni Lenape occupants and the Dutch who brought European civilization to the area, bringing focus on the impact of the Federal project on the local people, the demise of municipalities, and the current status.
An article, a heavily illustrated video presentation, and views of one impacted farm are available below, as well as insight into the American Indian perspective and the significant role of women in opposing government efforts they knew were wrong. Information continues to be added.
There has been much written about the proposed dam and its consequences, with much of it focusing on particular times or aspects. A list of initial sources may be found at the end of the article.
Especially helpful in our current research were:
Richard C. Albert, Damming the Delaware (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1987). The most comprehensive and authoritative book on the subject. A later quotation from Albert in the following source captures the essence of the issue.
Kathleen Duca-Sandberg, “The History and Demise of the Tocks Island Dam Project: Environmental war or the War in Vietnam” (2011).” Seton Hall University Dissertations and Theses. A comprehensive, well-researched study, it combines deep research with interviews of key figures involved. (The Albert quotation in the video was actually a part of an interview she did with him, as noted in the thesis.)
The New York Times presented a number of insightful articles over the years, and local and state newspapers also provided helpful coverage.
Kathleen Sandt, Public Affairs Specialist, National Park Service, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, provided valued personal and authoritative insight into historical aspects.
The personal words of those who were affected by the project, as recounted in many publications and available web sources, were especially compelling. Recent communications with Sidney Marshall, a former resident of nearby Walpack who was of American Indian descent and fought the plan but was forced off his land by the Corps of Engineers, have provided significant additional insight into the plight of the local residents. Other valuable insight has come from people such as Mina Hamilton and Sandy Hull, both of whom who served as officials of the Delaware Valley Conservation Association, which fought the government’s efforts with skill and valor.