Susquehanna River Basin Compact

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Susquehanna River Basin Compact
Susquehanna River Basin.png
Formation date: 1970
Member jurisdictions: 3
Issue(s): Natural resource management; Flood control
Compact website

The Susquehanna River Basin Compact is an interstate compact among Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. The compact provides for tri-state management of efforts to conserve, develop, and administer the water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin.


The Susquehanna River and its tributaries drain 27,510 square miles spread over parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The river winds approximately 444 miles along, and its basin borders some of the east coast's major population centers.

Although the river basin itself has remained relatively untouched, the development of the surrounding areas has caused problems of water pollution and increasing usage. Because the river is classified as a navigable waterway and runs through three states, no one jurisdiction can sufficiently address these issues and plan for future management. The compact, formed in 1970, allowed for a concerted management effort that spans state boundaries and addresses the unique problems associated with management of the basin's water resources.[1]


The compact created the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to coordinate the water resource management efforts of the three states and the federal government. The commission is composed of four members: one from each of the three members states and representative of the federal government who is appointed by the president.

The commission is charged with managing the basin's water resources. Its members work to reduce damages caused by floods, plan development projects, protect water quality, and ensure the future availability of flows to the Chesapeake Bay. There are six priority management areas of the commission:

  • Water supply
  • Water quality
  • Flooding
  • Ecosystems
  • Chesapeake Bay
  • Coordination, cooperation and public information[1]

Text of the compact

The legislature of each member state passes the laws with certain and modifications, but the core of the legislation remains the same.

Article I: Definitions, Purposes, and Limitations

1. Short title. This compact shall be known and may be cited as the Susquehanna River Basin Compact
2. Definitions. For the purposes of this compact, and of any supplemental or concurring legislation enacted pursuant to it:

  1. "Basin" shall mean the area of drainage of the Susquehanna River and its tributaries into Chesapeake Bay to the southern edge of the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge between Havre de Grace and Perryville, Maryland.
  2. "Commission" shall mean the Susquehanna River Basin Commission hereby created, and the term "Commissioner" shall mean a member of the commission.
  3. "Cost" shall mean direct and indirect expenditures, commitment, and net induced adverse effects, whether or not compensated for, used or incurred in connection with the establishment,acquisition, construction, maintenance, and operation of a project.
  4. "Diversion" shall mean the transfer of water into or from the basin.
  5. "Facility" shall mean any real or personal property, within or without the basin, and improvements thereof or thereon, and any and all rights of way, water, water rights, plants, structures, machinery, and equipment acquired, constructed, operated, or maintained for the beneficial use of water resources or related land uses or otherwise including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, any and all things and appurtenances necessary, useful, or convenient for the control, collection, storage, withdrawal, diversion, release, treatment, transmission, sale, or exchange of water; or for navigation thereon, or the development and use of hydroelectric energy and power, and public recreational facilities; or the propagation of fish and wildlife; or to conserve and protect the water resources of the basin or any existing or future water supply source, or to facilitate any other uses of any of them.
  6. "Federal government" shall mean the government of the United States of America, and any appropriate branch, department, bureau, or division thereof, as the case may be.
  7. "Project" shall mean any work, service, or activity which is separately planned, financed, or identified by the commission, or any separate facility undertaken or to be undertaken by the commission or otherwise within a specified area, for the conservation, utilization, control, development, or management of water resources which can be established and utilized independently or as an addition to an existing facility and can be considered as a separate entity for purposes of evaluation.
  8. "Signatory party" shall mean a state or commonwealth party to this compact, or the Federal government
  9. "Waters" shall mean both surface and underground waters which are contained within the drainage area of the Susquehanna River in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
  10. "Water resources" shall include all waters and related natural sources within the basin.
  11. "Withdrawal" shall mean a taking, or removal of water from any source within the basin for use within the basin.
  12. "Person" shall mean an individual, corporation, partnership, unincorporated association, and the like and shall have no gender, and the singular shall include the plural.

3. Purpose and Findings. The legislative bodies of the respective signatory parties hereby find and declare:

  1. The water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin are affected with a local, state, regional, and national interest, and the planning, conservation, utilization, development, management, and control of these resources, under appropriate arrangements for intergovernmental cooperation, are public purposes of the respective signatory parties.
  2. The water resources of the basin are subject to the sovereign rights and responsibilities of the signatory parties, and it is the purpose of this compact to provide for a joint exercise of these powers of sovereignty in the common interest of the people of the region.
  3. The water resources of the basin are functionally interrelated, and the uses of these resources are interdependent. A single administrative agency is therefore essential for effective and economical direction, supervision, and coordination of water resources efforts and programs of federal, state, and local governments and of private enterprise.
  4. Present and future demands require increasing economies and efficiencies in the use and reuse of water resources, and these can be brought about only by comprehensive planning, programming and management under the direction of a single administrative agency.
  5. In general, the purposes of this compact are to promote interstate comity; to remove causes of possible controversy; to make secure and protect developments within the states; to encourage and provide for the planning; conservation, utilization, development, management, and control of the water resources of the basin; to provide for cooperative and coordinated planning and action by the signatory parties with respect to water resources; and to apply the principle of equal and uniform treatment to all users of water and of water related facilities without regard to political boundaries
  6. It is the express intent of the signatory parties that the commission shall engage in the construction, operation and maintenance of a project only when the project is necessary to the execution of the comprehensive plan and no other competent agency is in a position to act, or such agency fails to act.

4. Powers of Congress; Withdrawal. Nothing in this compact shall be construed to relinquish the functions, powers, or duties of the Congress of the United States with respect to the control of any navigable waters within the basin, nor shall any provisions hereof be construed in derogation of any of the constitutional powers of the Congress to regulate commerce among the states and with foreign nations. The power and right of the Congress to withdraw the Federal government as a party to this compact or to revise or modify the terms, conditions, and provisions under which it may remain a party by amendment, repeal, or modification of any Federal statute applicable hereto is recognized by the signatory parties.
5. Duration of the Compact.

(a) The duration of this compact shall be for an initial period of 100 years from its effective date, and it shall be continued for additional periods of 100 years if not less than 20 years nor more than 25 years prior to the termination of the initial period or any succeeding period none of the signatory states, by authority of an act of its legislature, notifies the commission of intention to terminate the compact at the end of the then current 100-year period.
(b) In the event this compact should be terminated by operation of paragraph (a) above, the commission shall be dissolved, its assets and liabilities transferred in accordance with the equities of the signatory parties therein and its corporate affairs wound up in accordance with agreement of the signatory parties or, failing agreement, by act of the Congress.

Article 2: Organization and Area

  1. Commission Created. The Susquehanna River Basin Commission is hereby created as a body politic and corporate, with succession for the duration of this compact, as an agency and instrumentalitv of the governments of the respective signatory parties.
  2. Commission Membership. The members of the commission shall be the governor or the designee of the governor of each signatory state, to act for him, and one member to be appointed by the President of the United States to serve at the pleasure of the President.
  3. Alternates. An alternate from each signatory party shall be appointed by its member of the commission unless otherwise provided by the laws of the signatory party. The alternate, in the absence of the member, shall represent the member and act for him. In the event of a vacancy in the office of alternate, it shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.
  4. Compensation. Members of the commission and alternates shall serve without compensation from the commission but may be reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred in and incident to the performance of their duties.
  5. Voting Power. Each member is entitled to one vote. No action of the commission may be taken unless three of the four members vote in favor thereof.
  6. Organization and Procedure. The commission shall provide for its own organization and procedure, and shall adopt the rules and regulations governing its meetings and transactions. It shall organize annually by the election of a chairman and vice-chairman from among its members. It shall provide by its rules for the appointment by each member in his discretion of an advisor to serve without compensation from the commission, who may attend all meetings of the commission and its committees.
  7. Jurisdiction of the Commission. The commission shall have, exercise, and discharge its functions, powers, and duties within the limits of the basin. Outside the basin, the commission shall act at its discretion, but only to the extent necessary to implement its responsibilities within the basin, and where necessary subject to the consent of the state wherein it proposes to act.

Article 3: Powers and Duties of the Commission

1. General. The commission shall develop and effectuate plans, policies, and projects relating to the water resources of the basin. It shall adopt and promote uniform and coordinated policies for water resources conservation and management in the basin. It shall encourage and direct the planning, development, operation, and subject to applicable laws the financing of water resources projects according to such plans and policies.
2. Policy. It is the policy of the signatory parties to preserve and utilize the functions, powers, and duties of the existing offices and agencies of government to the extent consistent with this compact, and the commission is directed to utilize those offices and agencies for the purposes of this compact.
3. Comprehensive Plan, Program and Budgets. The commission in accordance with Article 14 of this compact, shall formulate and adopt:

  1. A comprehensive plan, after consultation with appropriate water users and interested public bodies for the immediate and long-range development and use of the water resources of the basin;
  2. A water resources program, based upon the comprehensive plan, which shall include a systematic presentation of the quantity and quality of water resources needs of the area to be served for such reasonably foreseeable period as the commission may determine, balanced by existing and proposed projects required to satisfy such needs, including all public and private projects affecting the basin, together with a separate statement of the projects proposed to be undertaken by the commission during such period; and
  3. An annual current expense budget and an annual capital budget consistent with the commission's program, projects, and facilities for the budget period.

4. Powers of the Commission. The commission may:

  1. Plan, design, acquire, construct, reconstruct, complete, own, improve, extend, develop, operate, and maintain any and all projects, facilities, properties, activities, and services which are determined by the commission to be necessary, convenient, or useful for the purpose of this compact.
  2. Establish standards of planning, decision, and operation of all projects and facilities in the basin to the extent they affect water resources, including without limitation thereto water, sewage and other waste treatment plants and facilities, pipelines, transmission lines, stream and lake recreational facilities, trunk mains for water distribution, local flood protection works, watershed management programs, and ground water recharging operations.
  3. Conduct and sponsor research on water resources and their planning, use, conservation, management, development, control, and protection, and the capacity, adaptability, and best utility of each facility thereof, and collect, compile, correlate, analyze, report, and interpret data on water resources and uses in the basin, including without limitation thereto the relation of water to other resources, industrial water technology, ground water movement, relation between water price and water demand and other economic factors, and general hydrological conditions.
  4. Collect, compile, coordinate, and interpret systematic surface and ground water data, and publicize such information when and as needed for water uses, flood warning, quality maintenance, or other purposes.
  5. Conduct ground and surface water investigations, tests and operations, and compile data relating thereto as may be required to formulate and administer the comprehensive plan.
  6. Prepare, publish, and disseminate information and reports concerning the water problems of the basin and for the presentation of the needs and resources of the basin and policies of the commission to executive and legislative branches of the signatory parties.
  7. Negotiate loans, grants, gifts, services, or other aids as may be lawfully available from public or private sources to finance or assist in effectuating any of the purposes of this compact, and receive and accept them upon terms and conditions, and subject to provisions, as may be required by Federal or state law or as the commission may deem necessary or desirable.
  8. Exercise such other and different powers as may be delegated to it by his compact or otherwise pursuant to law, and have and exercise all powers necessary or convenient to carry out its express powers and other powers which reasonably may be implied there from.
  9. Adopt, amend, and repeal rules and regulations to implement this compact.

5. Duties of the Commission. The commission shall:

  1. Develop and effectuate plans, policies, and projects relating to water resources; adopt, promote, and coordinate policies and standards for water resources conservation, control, utilization, and management; and promote and implement the planning, development, and financing of water resources projects.
  2. Undertake investigations, studies, and surveys, and acquire, construct, operate, and maintain projects and facilities in regard to the water resources of the basin, whenever it is deemed necessary to do so to activate or effectuate any of the provisions of this compact.
  3. Administer, manage, and control water resources in all matters determined by the commission to be interstate in nature or to have a ma or effect on the water resources and water resources management.
  4. Assume jurisdiction in any matter affecting water resources whenever it determines after investigation and public hearing upon due notice given, that the effectuation of the comprehensive plan or the implementation of this compact so requires. If the commission finds upon subsequent hearing requested by an affected signatory party that the party will take the necessary action, the commission may relinquish jurisdiction.
  5. Investigate and determine if the requirements of the compact or the rules and regulations of the commission are complied with, and if satisfactory progress has not been made, institute an action or actions in its own name in any state or Federal court of competent jurisdiction to compel compliance with any and all of the provisions of this compact or any of the rules and regulations of the commission adopted pursuant thereto. An action shall be instituted in the name of the commission and shall be conducted by its own counsel.

6. Cooperative Legislation and Further Jurisdiction.

  • (a) Each of the signatory parties agrees that it will seek enactment of such additional legislation as will be required to enable its officers, departments, commissions, boards, and agents to accomplish effectively the obligations and duties assumed under the terms of this compact.
  • (b) Nothing in the compact shall be construed to repeal, modify, or qualify the authority of any signatory party to enact any legislation or enforce any additional conditions and restrictions within its jurisdiction.

7. Coordination and Cooperation. The commission shall promote and aid the coordination of the activities and programs of Federal, state, municipal, and private agencies concerned with water resources administration in the basin. To this end, but without limitation thereto, the commission may:

  1. Advise, consult, contract, financially assist, or otherwise cooperate with any and all such agencies;
  2. Employ any other agency or instrumentality of any of the signatory parties or of any political subdivision thereof, in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of structures, and the installation and management of river control systems, or for any other purpose;
  3. Develop and adopt plans and specifications for particular water resources projects and facilities which so far as consistent with the comprehensive plan incorporate any separate plans of other public and private organizations operating in the basin, and permit the decentralized administration thereof,
  4. Qualify as a sponsoring agency under any Federal legislation heretofore or hereafter enacted to provide financial or other assistance for the planning, conservation, utilization, development, management, or control of water resources

8. Allocations, Diversions, and Releases.

  • (a) The commission shall have power from time to time as the need appears, to allocate the waters of the basin to and among the states signatory to this compact and impose related conditions, obligations, and release requirements.
  • (b) The commission shall have power from time to time as the need appears to enter into agreements with other river basin commissions or other states with respect to in-basin and outof-basin allocations, withdrawals, and diversions.
  • (c) No allocation of waters made pursuant to this section shall constitute prior appropriation of the waters of the basin or confer any superiority of right in respect to the use of those waters, nor shall any such action be deemed to constitute an apportionment of the waters of the basin among the parties hereto. This subsection shall not be deemed to limit or restrict the power of the commission to enter into covenants with respect to water supply, with a duration not exceeding the life of this compact, as it may deem necessary for the benefit or development of the water resources of the basin.

9. Rates and Charges. The commission, from time to time after public hearing upon due notice given, may fix, alter, and revise rates, rentals, charges, and tolls, and classifications thereof, without regulation or control by any department. Office, or agency of any signatory party, for the use of facilities owned or operated by it, and any services or products which it provides.
10. Referral and Review. No projects affecting the water resources of the basin, except those not requiring review and approval by the commission under paragraph 3 following, shall be undertaken by any person, governmental authority or other entity prior to submission to and approval by the commission or appropriate agencies of the signatory parties for review.

  • All water resources projects for which a permit or other form of permission to proceed with construction or implementation is required by legislative action of a signatory party or by rule or regulation of an office or agency of a signatory party having functions, powers, and duties in the planning, conservation, development, management, or control of water resources shall be submitted as heretofore to the appropriate office or agency of the signatory party for review and approval. To assure that the commission is apprised of all projects within the basin, monthly reports and listings of all permits granted, or similar actions taken, by offices or agencies of the signatory parties shall be submitted to the commission in a manner prescribed by it. Those projects which also require commission approval pursuant to the provisions of paragraphs 2 (ii) and 2 (iii) following shall be submitted to the commission through appropriate offices or agencies of a signatory party, except that, if no agency of a signatory party has jurisdiction, such projects shall be submitted directly to the commission in such manner as the commission shall prescribe.

See also

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