Rowers worried about Schuylkill River

Sarah Bloomquist Image
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
EMBED <>More Videos

The shallow depths, in some places just ten inches, are making the river increasingly unsafe for the rowers

BOATHOUSE ROW (WPVI) -- Boathouse Row. The Schuylkill River. The Regattas.

They are all a part of life in Philadelphia. But those who love the river and the rowing say all that is in jeopardy because of sediment settling on the bottom.

"The bottom's coming up and the top goes down over the course of the summer," Paul Laskow of the Schuylkill Navy River Restoration said.

The Schuylkill Navy is the governing body for all the rowing clubs.

Laskow says the sediment buildup is a natural result of damming the river and runoff.

But now, the shallow depths, in some places just ten inches, are making the river increasingly unsafe for the rowers

"You say, 'well, ten inches is a lot of water.' Well no, these rowing shells take eight inches of water in order to launch so when we'd try to push away for from the dock, this big plume of mud would come up," Laskow said.

"You can see the bottom and sometimes we can't even shove off the dock because the bottoms of the boat hit the bottom," Hanley Bodek of West Philadelphia said.

Bottom line is it's time for the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Schuylkill, something that hasn't happened since 2000.

It's been on the Corps' "to-do list," but at an estimated cost of about $3.5 million, the federal government can't seem to come up with the funds, not this year and probably not next.

"It's not a good thing. There's so many people that use the river. The regattas, people come from all over the country and all over the world," Bodek said.

The regattas and the fees rowing clubs pay the city bring in an estimated $50 million annually to the local economy. Without rowing, the clubs will go and with them a Philadelphia tradition.

"I guess I am praying for rain unless the money comes through," Laskow said.

Laskow says the Army Corps of Engineers and the local Congressional Delegation are all on board with the need for dredging, but it's just a matter of finding the money.

And for the Corps, right now, other projects are higher priority. They plan to meet later this week to try to come up with a new way to get the dredging done.