Susquehanna River Basin Commission Overview
The Susquehanna River is the nation's sixteenth largest river and is the largest
river lying entirely in the United States that flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The
Susquehanna and its hundreds of tributaries drain 27,510 square miles, an area nearly
the size of South Carolina, spread over parts of the states of New York, Pennsylvania,
The river meanders 444 miles from its origin at Otsego Lake near Cooperstown, N.Y.,
until it empties into the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Md. The Susquehanna
contributes one-half of the freshwater flow to the Bay.
The river basin borders the major population centers of the east coast, and although
relatively undeveloped, has experienced problems of water pollution and overusage.
Because the Susquehanna River flows through three states and is classified as a
navigable waterway by the federal government, there are state, regional, and national
interests involved. There is a need to coordinate the efforts of three states and
the agencies of the federal government, as well as a need to establish a management
system to oversee the use of the water and related natural resources of the Susquehanna.
These needs led to the drafting of the Susquehanna River Basin Compact, which was
signed into law on December 24, 1970. The Compact, as adopted by the Congress of
the United States, and the legislatures of New York State, Pennsylvania and Maryland,
provides the mechanism to guide the conservation, development, and administration
of the water resources of the vast river basin.
Susquehanna River Basin Compact (PDF, 51 pages, 133KB)
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THE SUSQUEHANNA RIVER BASIN COMMISSION
The Compact established the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) as the agency
to coordinate the water resources efforts of the three states and the federal government.
Each member is represented by a commissioner who serves as the spokesperson for
the government that he or she represents. In the case of the federal government,
the commissioner and his alternate are appointed by the President of the United
States. For the three states, the commissioners are the governors or their designees.
The governors also appoint alternate commissioners.
The commissioners, or their alternates, meet periodically to act on applications
for projects using water, adopt regulations, and direct planning and management
activities affecting the basin's water resources. Each of the four commissioners
has a single vote.
Under the leadership of an Executive Director, technical, administrative, and clerical
personnel support the daily operations of the Commission.
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STATEMENT OF MISSION
The mission of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), which is defined in
the Compact, is to enhance public welfare through comprehensive planning, water
supply allocation, and management of the water resources of the Susquehanna River
To accomplish this mission, the SRBC works to: reduce damages caused by floods;
provide for the reasonable and sustained development and use of surface and ground
water for municipal, agricultural, recreational, commercial and industrial purposes;
protect and restore fisheries, wetlands and aquatic habitat; protect water quality
and instream uses; and ensure future availability of flows to the Chesapeake Bay.
The SRBC is uniquely qualified to carry out this
mission. As a federal-interstate compact commission, its focus is defined by the
natural boundaries of the river basin rather than the political boundaries of the
member states. As such, the SRBC serves as a forum to provide coordinated management,
promote communication among the members, and resolve water resource issues and controversies
within the basin.
The goals of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission are:
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- To be responsive to water resource management needs of SRBC's signatory members;
- To provide excellent service to the public;
- To coordinate management of interstate water resources and serve as an effective
forum for resolution of water resource issues and controversies within the basin;
- To be a leader in issues concerning the conservation, utilization, allocation, development,
and management of water resources within the Susquehanna River Basin;
- To encourage excellence in SRBC staff by affording opportunities for professional
growth and development and by providing a stimulating work environment for all Commission
- To provide public information and education about the water resources of the basin.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE SRBC
SRBC staff develops and implements the programs as directed by the commissioners
and as found in SRBC's comprehensive plan, Comprehensive Plan for the Water
Resources of the Susquehanna River Basin,
http://www.srbc.net/planning/comprehensiveplan.htm. The six priority management
areas of the Comprehensive Plan are listed below, along with goals that are specific
to SRBC. SRBC is committed to taking the actions necessary to meet the goals.
A. Water Supply
- Support and encourage the sustainable use of water for domestic, industrial, municipal,
commercial, agricultural, and recreational activities in the basin Inventories available
- Maintain an equitable system for allocating water for various uses, including the
protection of instream flows and receiving waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
- Ensure sustainability of water sources by improving systems and managing water resources
- Mitigate drought impacts through coordination and use of drought emergency powers.
- Manage diversions to avoid impacts to the basin’s water resources.
- Manage consumptive water use to mitigate impacts to the basin’s water resources.
B. Water Quality
- Support and coordinate the efforts of the Commission's member jurisdictions in managing
the basin’s water quality.
- Monitor and assess the biological, chemical, and physical quality of the basin’s
waters to support restoration and protection efforts.
- Develop, support, and implement plans and projects to remediate and enhance the
basin’s water quality.
- Protect the quality of the basin's biological resources and sources of public drinking
- Organize, maintain, and distribute water quality data to facilitate basinwide water
quality improvement and protection activities.
- Implement the goals of the strategic plan for the Susquehanna Flood Forecast and
Warning System (SFFWS).
- Promote protective floodplain management practices.
- Improve community flood preparedness to ensure adequate and appropriate response
by emergency managers before, during and after a flood event.
- Assist the Commission's member jurisdictions, as appropriate, in reducing the introduction
of man-made debris into the waters of the Susquehanna River Basin and, ultimately,
- Perform ecosystem monitoring and assessment to provide data needed for effective
- Protect and restore biological resources throughout the basin and in each of the
- Restore populations of migratory fish throughout the Susquehanna River system.
E. Chesapeake Bay
- Identify the minimum freshwater inflows needed from the Susquehanna River to assist
in restoring and maintaining the ecological health of the Chesapeake Bay, while
also identifying opportunities for enhancement.
- Develop and implement plans to address the flow requirements in Goal a. above.
- Support the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort, including sediment and nutrient reduction
strategies developed by each of the Commission's member states.
- Provide habitat for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds found in the Chesapeake Bay.
F. Coordination, Cooperation and Public Information
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- Continue use of interagency committees and ad hoc committee mechanisms to gather
input from member jurisdictions and to encourage consistent interstate water management
policies and actions.
- Execute, review, and update memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with member jurisdictions
to coordinate regulatory or other programs that overlap.
- Support uniform water management policies and standards in areas such as water quality,
stream classification, flood plain management, instream flow protection, stream
passby requirements and aquifer protection.
- Coordinate major interagency efforts such as flood forecasting and warning, drought
emergency management, water conservation, and hydro power license renewal.
- Inform legislators and executive branch policy makers on important issues related
to the basin’s water resources.
- Inform the public on matters affecting the basin’s water resources and utilize
current tools, methods and strategies to effectively reach the public.
- Enhance public access to Commission information and decision making procedures.
- Involve and seek the advice of non-governmental organizations on the management
of the basin’s water resources.