The view of the creek from Lansdowne's Hoffman Park is radically different from what it was a year ago, when a dam clogged the waterway and the banks were scarred by steady erosion.
Now, a large excavator sits in the middle of the creek, digging away at the remnants of the dam, and the waters flow steadily. Residents walk their dogs on a new walkway and stop to marvel.
Craig said the aim is not only to boost stream flow but to improve in-stream habitats.
In addition to the Hoffman Park Dam, the others being erased are the Kent Park Dam in Upper Darby; a pair of abandoned railroad piers in Colwyn; and the Darby Dam, which has been in place since the late 17th century. The barriers have been magnets for debris that contribute to flooding.
"A free-flowing river is a healthy river," Craig said. "The day we took the dam out at Hoffman Park, I was overwhelmed by the amount of fish that gathered."
Since 1978, the National Flood Insurance Program has paid out about $9.6 million in claims to the areas in the vicinity of the restorations, according to federal figures.
So flood-prone was the Chestnut Street area in Darby that after the heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the federal government bought out 37 homeowners.
A new channel is diverting the flow away from that area and displacing the creek's energy, said Geoffrey Goll of Princeton Hydro.
Excavators removed about 10 feet of dirt to build the new channel, and that dirt went to fill the old channel, he said. More than 1,000 live wooden stakes, taken from the vegetation removed during construction - including dogwood and willow trees - were planted on the banks. When some of those stakes become shrubs and bushes, they will help secure the banks and fight erosion.
In addition, wooden stumps with their roots facing outward were placed along the edge of the creek to secure the banks, help gather debris, and serve as habitat for fish and other wildlife.
The project is costing about $1.6 million, with most coming from the damage settlement in the Athos I oil spill in 2004, in which 265,000 gallons of crude oil was released into the Delaware River near Paulsboro from the hull of a Greek tanker.
While the improvements should assist in flood prevention, some residents are not convinced that the problems are over.
"You can make it pretty, but it doesn't help with the dead stuff," said Edward Silberstein Sr., whose property abuts the creek in Upper Darby.
According to Silberstein, dead trees and debris remain the biggest flooding hazards.
"I hope the next phase is to clean up the trees, someway, somehow," he said.
Some residents have taken action on their own. The Darby Creek Valley Association has planned its 29th annual Darby Creek Cleanup for April 27. Last year, the event drew more than 600 volunteers to clean up trash and debris at 35 sites.
"People are starting to work together more to help with the creek," said the association's John Haigis.
According to Haigis, the cleanup involves an unofficial contest to see who can find the weirdest object in the creek.
Contact Jeremy Dillon
at 610-313-8119 or at Jdillon@philly.com.