Lower Allegheny River and Ohio River Mainstem

The Ohio River is one of the most biodiversity-rich river systems in the world. This distinction, however, is not consistent along the river’s entire length or across all of its tributary basins.  Certain river reaches and particular tributaries represent ecosystems of high quality, while other segments and sub-basins are ecologically degraded.  This discontinuity of biological diversity and ecosystem health present challenges to the viability of the entire river system and the life it harbors.

Focusing Attention

Examples of degraded river health are found in the industrialized region of the Upper Ohio River, including southwestern Pennsylvania. In this region, the Ohio River, Lower Allegheny River and their tributaries are integral to the social, cultural and economic fabric of our communities and are recognized as vital to our way of life. However, these rivers and streams have not received equal attention regarding the health of aquatic life, habitats and key aspects of ecosystem sustainability.  Conservationists must work within the present framework of human uses to protect, conserve and restore the health of river ecosystems.

A Plan of Action

By improving and protecting the rivers of southwestern Pennsylvania, WPC hopes to accomplish the following:

  • Local habitats and populations of aquatic life will become viable and sustainable
  • Local rivers and streams will provide connectivity for biodiversity within the larger Ohio River basin, both upstream and downstream
  • Social, cultural and economic human benefits will be improved over the long term

Key conservation issues for the Ohio River and Lower Allegheny River include:

  • Good water quality
  • Oxygen and temperature levels within limits suitable for aquatic life
  • Adequate passage for the dispersal of aquatic life
  • Suitable river depths
  • River current velocities in some reaches that support aquatic life needing free-flowing river conditions
  • Flood levels within limits suitable for aquatic life
  • River bed material (substrate) of various types and similar to the middle Allegheny River
  • Description of aquatic life
  • Prevention and control of non-native invasive species
  • Integration of river conservation with all other river uses


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