The Allegheny River has been selected as one of four finalist waterways in Pennsylvania to be voted on by the public in the annual PA River of the Year Contest co-sponsored by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the PA organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR). Online voting officially began on Monday November 14th and continues through 5:00 PM on December 19, 2016. There are no age restrictions or residency requirements to participate and anyone with a valid email address can vote at the website www.pariveroftheyear.org for the Allegheny River or one of the other three finalists which are Brandywine Creek and Perkiomen Creek in southeastern PA and Loyalhanna Creek in southwestern PA. The organization who nominated the winning entry in the contest receives a $10,000 DCNR grant to help celebrate the River of the Year designation with a series of public educational and recreational events.
The Allegheny River is over 315 miles long and with a watershed area of 11,580 square miles contributes 60 percent of the Ohio River flow at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Including its tributaries, the Allegheny River system is the location of the most diverse and populous freshwater mussel habitat in the world, and is one of the most biologically diverse watersheds in Pennsylvania. Eighty-six miles of the Allegheny River from Kinzua Dam to Emlenton, PA are a federally designated National Wild and Scenic Recreation River and contains seven islands that are protected under America’s National Wilderness Preservation System. Every year, thousands of people paddle down this beautiful river.
Since 2009, a coalition of interested partners has organized an annual river cleanup that takes place in September. Hundreds of volunteers pull trash, metals, and tires out of the river to increase its appeal and contribute to its aesthetic qualities. Cumulatively, 2,810 volunteers have pulled nearly 88,499 pounds of metal, 1,334 tires, and 386 cubic yards of trash from the Allegheny River since 2009. In addition, many of the same partners have also been organizing a successful cleanup on the Allegheny Reservoir since 2005. Cumulatively, 822 volunteers have donated 6,576 hours to collect 795 tires and 236 cubic yards of trash from the Allegheny Reservoir. This event became a multi-state affair when volunteers began cleaning up the reservoir shoreline in New York State in 2014. The reservoir is another popular tourist attraction for boaters, fishermen, hikers, and campers. The Allegheny River, along with the rest of Pennsylvania, has also enjoyed an amazing increase in the regional bald eagle population. The US Fish and Wildlife Service removed this majestic animal from the threatened species list in 2007, upgrading it to Protected Status, and now Pennsylvania can boast more than 277 nesting pairs of bald eagles as reported in 2015.
The Allegheny River was nominated for the River of the Year contest by Penn Soil Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council. Penn Soil RC&D is a 501-c-3 charitable organization headquartered in Warren, PA, but which serves the residents of eight northwestern PA counties. Penn Soil RC&D provides technical and/or financial assistance to community groups who would like to do community improvement projects, but who may not have sufficient legal structure to conduct business or enter into contracts to procure necessary resources, services, and manpower to complete a project.