11 Projects to Watch: Dam Removal Construction Season Kicks Off

Many of us associate summer with deciding which of the latest beach reads we’ll indulge in or plotting our next outdoor adventure. However, at American Rivers, summer also means the official kickoff to dam removal construction season!

Lower water levels and an end to the spring migratory fish runs often make this the perfect time of year to do active work in a river channel. Over the next five months, work will get underway at more than 16 of our dam removal and restoration sites.

These are 11 projects worth keeping your eye on this season:

Commodore Dam on Hinty Run in Indiana County, PA was removed in late June, providing fish passage for wild brook trout, as well as removing a safety hazard. The dam, classified as high-hazard, would have required $500,000 in repairs to ensure its safety. Green Township Water Authority chose to switch over to groundwater for public supply, and then work with American Rivers to remove the dam.

The removal of Moosup Dam #1 on the Moosup River in CT was also completed in late June. This is the first of several barrier removal projects and part of a collaborative effort to restore fish passage in the Moosup River.

Harvell Dam at low flow, Appomattox River, Petersburg, VA - photo by DGIF

Harvell Dam at low flow, Appomattox River, Petersburg, VA | photo by DGIF

The Harvell Dam Removal on the Appomattox River in Petersburg, VA will re-open 127 miles of upstream habitat for migratory fish, such as American Shad and river herring. The dam removal will also enhance recreational boating and fishing. The river is currently being diverted through the millrace with removal slated for later this month.

Plymco Dam Removal on Town Brook in Plymouth, MA is part of a watershed effort to restore the historic anadromous fish run at Town Brook and follows on the completion of the Off Billington Dam removal last year. In addition to providing passage for fish, replacing the Plymco Dam with an arch bridge will improve water quality through removal of contaminated sediment. American Rivers is funding this work through our national partnership with the NOAA Restoration Center.

Hospital Dam on Conewango Creek in Warren County, PA has claimed at least 5 lives in the past 30 years, but that will change when American Rivers removes this dangerous dam later this month. The partially breached dam causes perilous water conditions for boaters on this newly designated water trail.

Upper Wells River Dam Removal on Wells River in Groton, VT will open a total of 22.31 miles of stream, 6.4 miles of which is cold water habitat suited to Eastern Brook Trout. American Rivers is partnering with the Connecticut River Watershed Council and Keurig Green Mountain on this project.

Kladder Dam on a tributary to the Juniata River in PA is slated for removal in August in order to reconnect high-quality coldwater habitat for a wild brook trout population on this unnamed tributary.

Removal of the Byrnes Mill Dam on White Clay Creek later this summer will reopen 3.5 miles and 42 acres of spawning habitat along the National Wild and Scenic River for the passage of American Shad, Hickory Shad, and river herring in New Castle County, Delaware. This will be the first dam removal project completed for fish passage in Delaware. American Rivers is funding this work through our national partnership with the NOAA Restoration Center.

Heistand Sawmill Dam on Chiques Creek in PA is slated for removal in late August. In addition to restoring fish passage to over 3.1-miles of Chiques Creek, the project includes building a hiking and biking trail, as well as the potential to remove a small section of the stream from the state’s impaired waters list.

Centreville Dam, Gravel Run, Centreville, MD | American Rivers

Centreville Dam, Gravel Run, Centreville, MD | American Rivers

The Centreville Dam on Gravel Run in Centreville, MD will be removed later this fall in an effort to restore upstream habitat for perch, river herring, and American Eel.

Implementation of the Monongahela National Forest Ecological Restoration, surrounding Lambert Run, in WV continues this summer and fall with a holistic suite of restoration activities, including soil decompaction, wetland restoration, woody debris loading, and planting of native trees, to restore 2,600 acres of the Lambert Run watershed for the federally protected Northern flying squirrel and native brook trout. American Rivers and the EPA are partnering to fund a portion of this project through our Potomac Highlands Implementation Grant Program.

What projects are you looking forward to this season?

14 Responses to “11 Projects to Watch: Dam Removal Construction Season Kicks Off”

Clarence Fullard

Hoping the Frankenmuth Dam on the Cass River in Frankenmuth, MI will finally come out this year. It is being replaced with a rock ramp, so not the best outcome but it is better than nothing.


    Clarence, do you know if they are removing the concrete or lowering it before putting in the rock ramp?

John Kokoszka

The Town brook in Plymouth Mass. where the Pilgrims first caught salter brook trout.


What protection is being given to the wilderness rivers, and particularly Beaver Creek State Park in Ohio in regard to keeping the creek clean and not contaminated with the fracking around it?

Dave Peeler

Would like to see more work on western rivers. We have had some success in removing a few dams in the WA & OR, but many old dams remain.

    Ray kinney

    The Elwah dam WA removal has released huge quantities of sediment moving downstream.The left coast has far fewer river mussel species than the rest of the nation, but the few species present are important for stream ecology in this salmon nation. If similar removals are to done elsewhere, how are the projected sediment loads going to adversely affect mussel populations? Adequate preproject research of current conditions will be essential, so that our usual human-centric and fish-centric inclinations allow conservation of mussel populations.


      Ray, you raise an important point. Freshwater mussels are incredibly important to the health of our rivers. Key steps in designing a dam removal project include evaluating the volume and quality of sediment in a dam impoundment, as well as identifying the historic and current presence of mussels and other species of concern. In the case of the Elwha, a survey was conducted in 2008 for the presence of freshwater mussels, and several small remnant populations of the western pearlshell were found in the lower river and more in a side stream. Later that same year, almost 10K of the “side stream” mussels were relocated to several smaller tribs in the Lower Elwha, and in 2010, the smaller population of larger, older mussels immediately downstream of the Elwha Dam were also relocated. Monitoring of these transplanted populations and any remnant mussels in the main channel is ongoing.

      My colleague, Erin, also wrote a great post recently on the link between mussels and migratory fish (http://www.americanrivers.org/blog/intertwined-lives-migratory-fish-freshwater-mussels/) that you may be interested in.


    Thanks for the feedback, Dave. We share this desire and hope to see momentum build in the coming years.


It amazes me that all of these projects are in the northeast when there are so very many other projects needing attention elsewhere. Ottine Dam, a concrete dam on the San Marcos River in Texas, is the perfect example.

For several years Ottine has been failing. It was built in 1911, as a part of a millwork operation, but has suffered breaking and erosion that has allowed water to flow, uncontrollably, under the crown of the dam since a major flood in 2008 broke the concrete just below the surface. It creates a strong suck hole that could pull a person under the top of the dam and trap them where rescue would be impossible.

Ottine Dam serves no useful purpose – the grist mill has been closed and removed for many decades – yet, the dam remains and it is a threat to the safety and survival of river users. It needs to be removed, as was scheduled for removal in 2012, but the project was never undertaken.

Apparently, there was some disagreement between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, Gonzales County Historical Society and Palmetto State Park over who is going to pay for the removal project. It is a classic case of “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”

Ottine Dam needs to be removed YESTERDAY! It poses a definitely life safety risk for anybody who approaches it on foot or in a boat on the river.


    I appreciate the feedback, Marc. One of the reasons this particular list skews so heavily East Coast is that I only listed projects where we have regional field staff who have been involved in providing technical or funding assistance. When we release our full list in early 2015, you’ll definitely see a bit more geographic diversity. Texas, however, remains missing from our yearly list.

    I tried to get involved in the removal of a dam (perhaps this one) on the San Marcos a few years back to no avail. Feel free to email me about this project. I’m happy to discuss and see what we may be able to do to help.

Peter Thompson

And it all began with the cooperative grass-roots efforts of The Kennebec Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited and American Rivers, resulting in the eventual removal of the Edwards dam from the GREAT Kennebec River at Augusta, Maine…..I know this because I was president of Kennebec Valley TU when we began the process (and, I might add, WITHOUT the aid of TU National, at least until the dam removal photo-op). It’s ALWAYS the boots on the ground of the dedicated FEW that make REAL CHANGE happen….


    Peter, this comment leaves me wishing I could reply with only enthusiastic emoticons.

Peter Maki

There is a dam across the Big Piney River in Southern Missouri that backs up a pool of water to serve Ft. Leonard Wood. The base civilian managers and the Missouri Department of Conservation Fisheries Department question whether dams are barriers to fish and Aquatic Organism Passage. Fisheries Biologists with the US Fish and Wildlife Service say the dam is a barrier. Worse, Ft. Wood is undergoing a $10 million upgrade to their water treatment facility to clean up the river water. Their 3 million gallon per day of river water for 35,000 military families could be met with groundwater at a fraction of that cost. Please help the Big Piney River Stream Team Watershed Association in our efforts to remove or mitigate this dam.


    Thanks, Peter. I’ll connect with some of our team and try to get someone in touch with you. Feel free to email me so that I have your email address.