First Dam Removal in the State of Delaware
On December 4th, 2014 the Byrnes Mill Dam on White Clay Creek in Delaware, also known as White Clay Creek Dam No. 1, was breached to allow for fish passage. It is the first recorded dam removal in the State of Delaware.
The dam was constructed as a timber crib and rockfill structure in 1777 by Daniel Byrnes to divert water into a two mile long raceway that provided hydropower for a colonial mill at the nearby Hale-Byrnes House. For the first time since its construction, resident and anadromous fishes, including American shad, hickory shad, river herring, and striped bass will be able to swim freely past the location of the former dam in Newark. The removal reconnects 3.5 miles of the White Clay Creek National Wild and Scenic River to the tidal Christina and Delaware Rivers, and is the first of several anticipated removals along this stretch of river. The project was led by the University of Delaware Water Resources Agency with funding from American Rivers-NOAA Community-Based Restoration Program.
In addition to being the first dam removal in Delaware, this project is unique because of the age of the structure – it was 237 years old at the time of removal – and the attention to documenting the dam’s history and construction details. 237-year-old pine and oak timbers, hand forged iron spikes (some as long as four feet), and cut stone were pulled from the breach and stockpiled for historic documentation by the University of Delaware Center for Historic Architecture and Design.
A ceremonial ribbon-cutting to “reopen the stream” will coincide with the Spring 2015 shad run.