Member Highlight: Lackawanna River Conservation Association

Photo: Lackawanna River Conservation Association 

Photo: Lackawanna River Conservation Association 

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA) prides itself in years of river clean up and watershed protection, specifically focusing on the Lackawanna River. They envision a community of consciously planned neighborhoods, a healthy river, sustainable industry, and multi-generational environmental support. We were excited to hear back from the LRCA director Bernie McGurl on what makes this organization such an important part of our Coalition. 

Tell us about your organization and your mission: 

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association, known to members and friends as the LRCA, just celebrated its 30th anniversary as a community based watershed conservation organization. Our mission is to promote the conservation, protection and restoration of the Lackawanna River and its watershed resources. We accomplish our mission by involving the community with projects and activities that are mutually beneficial to the community and the river.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

We are conducting a “Water Quality Awareness” Public Outreach and Education Program (POEP) in 15 local municipalities in collaboration with the Lackawanna River Basin Sewer Authority. LRCA Staff and Volunteers attend community events, firemen’s picnics and festivals. We set up an outreach table under a popup canopy of festival tent and distribute water quality protection literature; How to booklets for installing rain barrels and rain gardens. We further engage the public in conversations about our river, its watershed and how we all can be better stewards of our local environment. These POEP events also provide us an opportunity to promote the establishment of a regional Stormwater Management Authority to consolidate MS4 responsibilities and build greater financial and management capacity into one central agency. We suggest in personal discussion taxpayer to taxpayer that centralized management of stormwater can save tax dollars and provide better service to local residents and businesses.Our response from the public and individual elected officials has been very supportive of the concept. We are still working to obtain a consensus among the 30 or so separate local municipalities to engender the intergovernmental agreements to bring a new stormwater agency into existence. We are optimistic that we will succeed in the long turn.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

We announced a few weeks ago at our 30th Anniversary Celebration Dinner that we were initiating a Ten Year, One Million Dollar Watershed Conservation Fund Campaign beginning in 2018. The announcement was greeted with a rousing round of applause from a room filled with nearly 200 members, donors and sponsors. We are engaged in a determined effort to recruit and involve younger members of our community to become involved with our mission as members, volunteers and donors, The goal of our Fund Campaign it to establish a financial foundation to transition our staff leadership and retain new younger leadership with a more secure funding base to support family sustaining salaries for new staff that is competitive with other regional not for profit conservation agencies.When we created the LRCA in 1987 we developed a master plan to restore our river that had been damaged by 150 years of coal mining and industrialization. We have engendered a remarkable recovery of water and habitat quality along our river in the past 30 years. However, there is still a long list of unmet needs in our watershed for mine land and mine drainage reclamation, improvements to our ageing water and sewer infrastructure and conservation protection and acquisition of critical watershed lands. Our new fund campaign will help build our organization’s capacity to continue addressing these needs and our mission over the next 30 years.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

The LRCA has been a member of the Clean Water Coalition for the past seven years. The Coalition continues to offer a way to engage with other local community based stakeholders across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Coalition provides opportunities to share information, educate others and become educated ourselves on a wide range of water resource issues. Membership in the Coalition provides opportunities to network with individuals and organizations working with common values to address our civic responsibilities for water resource conservation in non-ideological ways. We believe the our membership in the Coalition provides us with a collective, moderate, responsible and respected voice on clean water issues that can be heard clearly and distinctly in Washington and in our state capitols. 

For more information on the Lackawanna River Conservation Association, contact Bernie McGurl.