What Stopped the Tocks Island Dam Project: The Environmental War or the War in Vietnam?


  • Kathleen Duca




The controversial damming of the Delaware River at Tocks Island would have created a 37-mile-long reservoir and recreational lake between the borders of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, flooding vast areas of beautiful land and historic buildings. In preparation, fifteen thousand people were displaced from their homes by the Army Corps of Engineers to create the Delaware Water Gap National Park and the proposed man-made lake. It took nearly forty years before the dam was finally de-authorized by Congress and the Delaware River permanently protected. The demise of the Tocks Island Dam project had always been incorrectly viewed as solely a victory for the environmental movement, but the dam was actually doomed much earlier when President Lyndon Johnson needed money to simultaneously fight the War in Vietnam and push through his Great Society legislation. Cost increases and budget cuts due to the war delayed the project long enough for it to get tangled in later environmental legislation. This paper demonstrates that a lack of funding in the late 1960s handed the growing environmental movement a fait accompli victory in the 1970s.