Monday 25 September 2017

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Lower Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® is dedicated to improving and protecting the ecological integrity of the Susquehanna Watershed and Chesapeake Bay, and focuses on identifying sources of pollution and enforcing environmental laws. We actively educate the public on current issues, work with decision-makers to emphasize the economic and social benefits of protecting our watershed, and when necessary enforce laws protecting communities and natural resources of the Susquehanna Watershed.

Lower Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER Michael Helfrich was born and raised in the Codorus Creek Watershed in York County, Pennsylvania. In January 2002, Michale formed the Codorus Creek Improvement Partnership. Over the next 3 years, CCIP organized creek clean-ups, reported pollution to authorities and led lawsuits against polluters. In June 2005 Michael handed over leadership of CCIP and started Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna, Inc (SOLS). In September 2005, he was licensed as the Lower Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER®. In 2013, Michael was elected as a York City Councilman. He has also received several distinguished awards.

Read about the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper in the news!

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper performs “pollution patrols,” random patrols that often turn up violations of law. Similarly, we partner with county conservation districts to address violations at construction, industrial, and agricultural sites. Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper works on these and other polluting activities:


  • wastewater treatment facilities
  • concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)
  • hydropower facility relicensing including sedimentation behind dams & fishery migration
  • Pennsylvania and Maryland’s obligations to cap pollution under the Chesapeake Bay TMDL rule
  • strategies combating pollution from shale gas hydraulic fracturing
  • stronger small farm and wetlands encroachment regulation, issues that account for much of the ecological impairment to the Lower Susquehanna Watershed.

Success is proven time and again by action in the form of fines, dropped permits, and Cease and Desist orders from regulating agencies. In 2011, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper helped defeat a hydro-electric pumped-storage facility that threatened to drown 1700 acres of York County including prime agricultural lands.Our goal is to become the recognized name in water defense for our region. We hope to lead citizens to action in protecting their watershed, communities, and heritage.

Top Advocacy Initiatives:

Participating in the once-every-50-years relicensing for Susquehanna River hydroelectric facilities. We are particularly interested in finding solutions to the threat sediment build-up behind Susquehanna River dams poses to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Likewise, we are focused on securing permit requirements for effective upstream migratory fish passage, particularly the American Eel, whose successful reintroduction is key to the Susquehanna’s natural pollution filtration capacity.

Acting as citizen advocates of the Susquehanna River in the implementation of the 2010 Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), aka the Bay “Pollution Diet.” We seek to ensure (a) laws protecting water quality and human health are enforced and (b) that the State of PA and its county governments are accountable to its citizens in meeting their duty to reduce pollution to Susquehanna Watershed waterways. Clean waterways equal strong economies and strong communities!

Addressing the threat unconventional shale gas development poses to human health and the environment in the Susquehanna Watershed. We actively watch permitting, rulemaking, and policy by the PA Department of Environmental Protection to ensure strong oversight of this industrial activity. We also work with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to ensure states in the Susquehanna Watershed have uniform and appropriate quality control mechanisms, and that comprehensive, basin-wide environmental studies are performed so that decision makers have scientific baselines to inform their policymaking.

Working to have the Lower Susquehanna River listed as impaired on the state 303(d) list & implement a plan to revive the collapsing Smallmouth Bass population. The Susquehanna has a rich history and once hosted trophy smallmouth bass populations. We want to restore this important fish’s health and presence in the Susquehanna Watershed and improve the water quality of the Lower Susquehanna.


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