Good news for trout, salmon, steelhead…Anglers Fund Conservation Update Spring 2014

Whether you fish for trout, salmon, steelhead, shad, shoal bass, or any number of other American game fish, it’s likely that our work is improving the river habitat for your favorite fish.

Every six months as part of our Anglers Fund initiative, we compile a report of our work from across the country that has helped to protect and restore important fish habitat.

In the following sections, you’ll see success stories from this work across the country, such as:

  • Dam removals on the Battenkill River in VT, the Crooked River in OR, and many others across the country.
  • Floodplain restorations in California where juvenile salmon grow twice as big and have twice the survival rate as those reared in the main channel.
  • River protection victories ranging from Washington state to the Southeast.

Enjoy the report, and learn more about how you can support this work through the Anglers Fund »
[Download report as PDF]

Dam Removal Map

Interactive map of removed dams, available at

Great momentum with dam removals: There’s no single better thing you can do for a river that is blocked by an outdated dam than to remove it. Taking out the dam restores natural flows, provides access to spawning grounds for migrating fish, and connects fish populations that have been separated for years. This past year’s total of 51 removed dams brings the national total to over 850 dams that have been removed in the past 20 years since we energized the dam-removal movement. The following sections describe some of the recent highlights. Click here to see the full list and an interactive map of all U.S. dam removals since 1936.

New England dam removals:

Dufresne Dam removal before and after | © Amy Singler

Before/after shots of Dufrense Dam on the Battenkill River, VT

Fishing on the iconic Battenkill River in Manchester, Vermont, got a boost with the removal of the Dufresne Pond Dam in September. The removal of this 12-foot high and 263-foot wide earthen and concrete dam opens 5 miles of excellent upstream habitat to the Battenkill’s wild brook and brown trout populations and improves water temperatures to the downstream reaches, which will help strengthen and recover the river’s wild trout population. Learn more.

Also in New England, American Rivers worked with the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, to remove the outdated Off Billington Street Dam, an 8-foot high, 110-foot wide industrial mill dam in November of 2013. The dam is the third dam to be removed on the brook, which until 10 years ago, had 6 dams on it. Planning for removal of the next dam, Plymco Dam, is already underway. This modest 2-mile brook provides access to the 269-acre fresh-water Billington Sea and currently supports a run of over 100,000 river herring with the potential for a much larger run. Recovering forage fish like river herring also helps the recovery of game fish like striped bass and albacore. Learn more.

Pennsylvania continues dam removal momentum:

Dam Removal Map

Before and After of Old Skinner Dam, Skinner Creek, PA – removed 2013

With 12 PA dams removed in 2013, here are some great examples from the western part of the state. See the full list of 2013 PA dam removals at

Skinner Creek, McKean County: American Rivers partnered with PA Fish & Boat Commission to remove the Sherwood Hollow and Old Skinner dams in the Upper Allegheny Watershed to connect 12 miles of excellent habitat for wild brook trout and a PA-Endangered freshwater cod.

Great Trough Creek, Huntingdon County: Through partnership between American Rivers and DCNR, removing Trough Creek Dam reconnected 25 miles of Great Trough Creek for spawning access for smallmouth bass, as well as created a new canoe and kayak access within Trough Creek State Park.

East Branch Clarion River, Elk County: Following our 2010 removal of the Bendigo Dam, American Rivers partnered with PA Fish & Boat Commission and PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources in 2013, to stabilize stream banks, improve habitat for wild brook trout, and provide improved fishing access (including handicap-accessible fishing). Learn more about Pennsylvania dam removals.

Dam removals in NC help 7,000 shad access spawning grounds:

Dufresne Dam removal before and after | © Amy Singler

Before/after shots of Lassiter Mill Dam on the Uwharrie River, NC
(Photos by Mark Cantrell and Lynnette Batt)

In central North Carolina, the Lassiter Mill Dam’s removal in 2013 is benefiting American shad by freeing 15 miles of the Uwharrie River and 189 miles of tributaries for migration and spawning — enough to support 7,000 shad. Removing dams is the best and most effective way to help this process.

A second major dam removal for American Rivers in NC was the Smitherman’s dam on the Little River near Troy. This is the third in a series of four dam removals, and we are in the early stages of the fourth removal. By removing this series of dams, American Rivers and our partners at the US Fish and Wildlife Service have improved spawning habitat for the American shad, provided more usable habitat for freshwater mussels, and allowed greater connectivity for the American eel.

A third recent removal in central NC was on the Haw River, a river segmented by a number of small unused dams that are blocking access to critical habitat. The first of a four dam removal series, the Upper Swepsonville Dam, 550 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 3.5 feet high, was removed this past fall, freeing an additional 5.3 miles of main stem Haw River. The other three barriers slated for removal will continue to open habitat for the endangered fish, provide more connectivity for resident fishes, and improve public safety and recreation opportunities. Learn more.

Stearns Dam removal, Crooked River, OR | Denise Hoffert-Hay

Stearns Dam removal, Crooked River, OR | Denise Hoffert-Hay

Dam removal on Oregon’s Crooked River opens Chinook and steelhead spawning grounds:

The six-foot tall, 150-foot wide Stearns Dam was removed in 2013 from the Crooked River to open up 12 miles of habitat for Chinook salmon and Middle Columbia steelhead.

A pioneering family led by patriarch Sidney Stearns constructed the dam in 1911 from rocks, logs, and concrete. The family used the structure to divert water from the Crooked River onto their ranch for irrigation. The aging dam had outlived its useful purpose and was only serving to block the salmon run.

The section of the river upstream from this dam is some of the river’s best habitat and includes the beginning stretch of the Wild and Scenic portion of the Crooked River. The Crooked River is the Deschutes River’s largest tributary and the Stearns Dam removal will benefit the fish reintroduction program underway in the larger Deschutes Basin. This project was funded in part by a national partnership between American Rivers and the NOAA Restoration Center, with collaboration with the Crooked River Watershed Council and landowner, Quail Valley Ranch. Learn more.

Protection for salmon streams in central Washington:

Teanaway River ribbon cutting | © Tom Ring

Teanaway River ribbon cutting | © Tom Ring

Through our work with our partners on the Yakima River Integrated Plan, we are seeing great results on the Teanaway River and Manastash Creek, both important steelhead-bearing tributaries of the Yakima River. In the Teanaway, our work on the plan set the stage for the state acquisition and protection of 50,000 acres of the Teanaway watershed, essential habitat for threatened steelhead trout and Chinook salmon. Learn more.

On Manastash Creek, the plan enabled us to work with Trout Unlimited and other partners to promote water conservation, repair irrigation pipes, and improve habitat. By restoring flows, this project has given steelhead better access to over 25 miles of historic habitat in a creek whose flow had been severely limited (running dry much of the spring and summer).

And in western WA, we’re working to improve passage for Chinook, coho, and pink salmon as well as steelhead at Buckley Dam on Washington’s White River, a tributary of the Puyallup River in the Puget Sound basin. We’re applying pressure on the Corps of Engineers to improve a broken down trap and haul system to help move all the fish that are seeking to be transported above two dams on the White River into prime spawning habitat in and around Mt. Rainier National Park.

Water bill to boost Montana and Idaho trout fisheries:

A special provision in a massive water resources bill pending in Congress would authorize tens of millions of dollars for fisheries enhancement projects in Montana and Idaho. American Rivers worked with former Montana Sen. Max Baucus and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo to get the Northern Rockies provision included in the Water Resources Development Act (S. 601), which is being ironed out in a Senate-House conference committee. The provision would authorize up to $50 million in federal matching funds over the next five years for riverside conservation easements, fish passage improvements, in-stream flow leases, invasive species control, and other projects aimed at improving river health. Learn more.

Policy victories for NC fish:

First Broad River | © Peter Raabe

The First Broad River, NC will continue to run free! | © Peter Raabe

In February we won a challenge requiring the State of NC to uphold its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act on behalf of the First Broad River, a great warm water fishery. The proposed dam would destroy 24 miles of river and 1,200 acres of critical watershed land. American Rivers led a legal challenge to require the state of North Carolina to do a full review of the project, which it had declined to do. Proponents of this new impoundment will need to show proof that their unjustified project is more valuable that the free-flowing First Broad River… an unlikely outcome at this point. Learn more.

A second policy victory was in December when American Rivers played a key role in ensuring that the State of North Carolina establishes how it will determine sufficient flows that will keep enough cold water in our rivers to support the state’s many fish populations. We made sure that the best science was brought into the report and that the standards should not only protect the river flows we have but restore diminished flows to rivers that have had too much water taken out already. Learn more.

Expanding access on Colorado’s Eagle River:

Eagle River, CO | © Ken Neubecker

Eagle River, CO | © Ken Neubecker

Eagle County, our partners on the Eagle River Blue Trail has acquired the Horn Ranch through purchase and conservation easement. This action protects 288 acres along the Eagle River and opens up over a mile of the river for fishing. Learn more.

Also in Colorado, our team continues to expand our reach across the state’s water community. Recent activities include hosting a series of hydropower workshops in partnership with the hydropower industry and the agricultural community to promote low impact hydropower alternatives that do not harm rivers and fish, hosting a 5 day trip on the Yampa River in June with ranchers, sportsman, recreation, conservation, and other water users to develop collaborative solutions to protecting the Yampa River for future generations, and working on new water right appropriations to protect fish in the Gunnison and Yampa Basins.

California projects have positive impacts on the state’s fish:

Restoring Flow in California’s Coastal Streams:American Rivers is currently working with water users and a variety of project partners in the San Gregorio Creek watershed on the Central Coast of California to develop a model strategy for meeting in-stream flow needs for steelhead and endangered California Central Coast Coho salmon while maintaining a viable agricultural community. Infrastructure for the first on-farm water management strategy was installed this winter. This project is anticipated to reduce water use on the project site by 20 to 25 percent and will reduce water diversion rates during late summer months by 60 percent. We are now meeting with other large water users in the watershed to expand the program and implement a watershed-wide strategy for coordinated water management. Learn more

Hot Creek, a tributary to the Owens River, CA | Jacob DysteHot Creek, a tributary to the Owens River, CA | Jacob Dyste

Cleaning Up Heavy Metals in a Blue Ribbon Stream: Mammoth Creek, immediately above Hot Creek’s Blue Ribbon reach, has been designated since 2003 by the State as impaired by the heavy metal mercury with tissue samples showing that mercury is entering the trout at unacceptable levels. American Rivers partnered with CalTrout and the State Water Board to find the pollution sources and treat them, and at the same time advancing the State’s plan for cleaning Mammoth Creek by a decade. In 2013 we identified the main sources of mercury as coming from a gold-rush era stamp mill and mine site above the creek. When we brought the high levels of mercury to the attention of the Forest Service, it immediately became their top priority restoration site, and cleanup is scheduled for this coming summer.

Hidden Valley Ranch protected

Hidden Valley, CA | © F.T. Griggs, River Partners

Hidden Valley Ranch, CA | © F.T. Griggs, River Partners

American Rivers played a key role in shepherding the recent acquisition of the Hidden Valley Ranch, a critical piece of agricultural property along the San Joaquin River near Stockton, which will now become a keystone piece of a 10,000-acre non-structural flood control and floodplain protection effort. The ranch abuts the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge and Dos Rios Ranch, which together provide undeveloped floodplain access for the San Joaquin and Tuolumne Rivers during times of high water.

Learn more

difference in size/weight of junenile salmon | © Jeff Opperman

See the difference in size and weight of juvenile salmon reared in floodplains (right) and those reared in the main channel (left) | © Jeff Opperman

Hidden Valley Ranch includes 1.5 miles of San Joaquin River frontage. The adjacent Dos Rios Ranch and the Refuge are located at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers. By joining the Hidden Valley acreage with the Refuge and Dos Rios properties, there will now be a large, contiguous stretch of land that can be used to provide more room for these rivers during floods. Together, the three properties encompass both sides of the San Joaquin River for a five-mile reach. This land will serve as floodplain rearing habitat for juvenile salmon and steelhead. It has been shown that juvenile salmon that rear in floodplains grow two to three times larger and have twice the survival rate of those reared in the main channel.

“When this floodplain is restored, lots of young salmon will be able to access it and get fat and happy on their way to the ocean. This approach also helps keep good farmland in production,” said Steve Rothert, director of the California Regional Office of American Rivers. Learn more.


Georgia work supports native shoal bass:

Flint River, GA - Chris Funk

Flint River, GA | Chris Funk

Georgia work supports native shoal bass:
American Rivers’ work to keep the Flint River free-flowing and to restore healthy flows in the Flint – especially to keep it from running dry in drought years – supports the preservation of this spectacular and rare shoal bass fishery. Native shoal bass have become very popular with fly fishermen in the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers, especially in the upper Flint. They’re a strong fish and they fight hard and long, and they rely on fast-moving water and shoal habitat. Fortunately plenty of this habitat is still present in the upper Flint, since the proposals for large dams at Sprewell Bluff and elsewhere on the Flint were blocked in the 1970s. Our ongoing work to protect these flows is critical to maintaining shoal bass in the Flint. Learn more.

Antietam Creek Rubbish Roundup, MD - Susan Simonson

Susan Simonson, Antietam Creek Rubbish Roundup, MD

National River Clean-up:

American Rivers supports local organizations and river cleanups through our National River Cleanup program. River cleanups grow the number of river stewards and recreators across the country by connecting community members to their local river or stream. One of the organizations in the National River Cleanup network, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, hosts two cleanups each year. In 2013 the Grand River Green Up and the Mayors River Cleanup saw over 1000 volunteers who cleaned up over 20,000 pounds of trash from Michigan’s Grand River. By removing trash from a river we create a cleaner environment for wildlife and help the community by making the river a safer and more beautiful space for paddling and angling. Learn more.