A Big Win on the Little River: Smitherman’s Dam Removal

Smitherman's Dam removal, Little River, NC | © Peter Raabe

Smitherman’s Dam was the third dam American Rivers has removed on the Little River, NC | © Peter Raabe

Another dam bites the dust near Troy, NC, on the Little River, a tributary to the Yadkin Pee Dee River. In a continuing partnership between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Piedmont Conservation Council, the Town of Troy, and American Rivers, Smitherman’s dam was removed on November 4, 2013, my first day on the job! The sun was shining and people were smiling, as heavy machines labored to remove an obsolete dam to improve aquatic habitat, public safety, recreation opportunities, and water quality.

The first wave of dam removals in the Troy area was completed in September of 2012, when we removed Dynamo Dam and Troy Dam #1. Smitherman’s is the third dam removed in the area with a fourth on the horizon. This removal opens up nearly forty miles of main stem stream and 105 miles of perennial tributary streams and this series of removals will benefit a dozen rare/threatened mussel species, two rare/threatened fish species, one migratory fish species, and many other freshwater species of high conservation value. The NC Natural Heritage Program lists the Little River as “National Significant Aquatic Habitat.”

Little River Densons Creek Dams Map

Click to enlarge map

The Town of Troy is capitalizing on this opportunity by constructing a public park and canoe access at the site of the dam removal which will add to their impressive collection of green spaces like the Roy Maness Nature Preserve and Greenway. Walking trails and an informal river access already existed at the site, but public safety was at risk because the dam served as an attractive nuisance. Without the dam, the recreation opportunities are safer and of better quality than before.

This project continues the line of successful dam removals that have been completed in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners Program and the Piedmont Conservation Council. Serving witness to the hard work of many people over many years was the best way to begin my career in the River Restoration program with American Rivers. I look forward to sharing future blog posts highlighting the important mission of American Rivers through river restoration in the Southeast.