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A Storied Rowing Venue Goes Deep

BY COLLEEN SAVILLE
PHOTO BY SPORTGRAPHICS

Dredging has begun along miles of the Schuylkill River–one of rowing’s most storied locales–to remove 60,000 cubic yards of sediment from the river floor, a project nearly seven years in the making.

The dredged material is being pumped through a pipeline over the Fairmount Dam onto barges south of the I-676 bridge. The barges will then travel south along the river and dispose of the dredged material at an area operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The project is being funded by several organizations that call the Schuylkill home and is a wonderful illustration of what can be done when people are united by a common mission–ensuring that the Schuylkill remains a fair and safe racecourse with racing lanes of equal depth, so that events such as the Stotesbury Cup Regatta and the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta can continue. Recently, some outside lanes were as shallow as two feet, while others were 10 feet deep.

“The fact that there haven’t been regattas in the spring and summer due to Covid-19 has been, in a weird sense, fortunate, because those events would have been more difficult to run and organize as a result of the dredging,” said Bonnie Mueller, vice commodore of the Schuylkill Navy, an association for amateur rowing clubs in Philadelphia. “That said, the dredging was never going to have to work around the regattas; the regattas were going to have to work around the dredging.”

Dredging begins each weekday at 7 a.m. and is projected to run through the end of the year. For many, the project’s launch marks an important moment for the larger Philadelphia community.

 “From a Schuylkill Navy perspective, we are excited to be at this place after such a long time. But more importantly, we feel grateful” said Mueller. “Grateful for a collaboration and the unique partnerships that allowed us to get to this place. That includes not only the rowing and paddling community but the city itself. In these challenging times, it makes me feel hopeful. This dredging project has cemented my belief that great things, though difficult, can be done when people come together.”

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