On July 1, 1999, as a church bell broke the stillness of the morning, I had the great privilege of witnessing the rebirth of Maine’s Kennebec River as it flowed free for the first time in 162 years. Since then, I have had the opportunity to observe numerous other dam removals, but none quite as moving, successful, and ultimately transformative.
The future of 2.6 million acres of high value public forest lands is at risk. Managed mainly by the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon known as Oregon and California (“O&C”) lands, these forests are home to perhaps the highest concentrations of pristine wild rivers in the United States. Watersheds such as the Rogue, Illinois, Umpqua, and McKenzie support abundant fish and wildlife, including elk, black-tail deer, back bear and the healthiest wild salmon and steelhead runs south of Canada.
American Rivers is partnering with U.S. Forest Service with funding support from the state of Minnesota through the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council's Conservation Partners Legacy Grant program to remove this inoperable dam, reconnect stream habitats and reestablish wetlands at the project site. This project will result in unobstructed flows in at least 2 miles of headwater habitat and will include road decommissioning to remove unneeded access roads.
Communities in 19 states, working in partnership with non-profit organizations and state and federal agencies, removed 65 dams in 2012, American Rivers announced today. Outdated or unsafe dams came out of rivers across the nation, restoring 400 miles of streams for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people across the country.
River restoration can be a win-win situation, inviting nature back in to become the centerpiece of a thriving community. In the city of Oakley, river ecology has sparked a community's interest and engagement.
The fish ladder on Marsh Creek, upstream from Dutch Slough in the Bay Delta, enables salmon to bypass a 6-foot high dam and access 7 miles of salmon habitat upstream.
American Rivers was recently recognized for their work with the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee. Over the past year we helped the Housing Authority secure $225,000 from the Fund for Lake Michigan of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation for bioswales in a reconstruction project of Wisconsin's largest public housing cluster on Milwaukee's northwest side.
American Rivers and the Garden District Neighborhood Association recently received a grant through Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District's Green Infrastructure Partnership Program. The funding is helping transform an area on Milwaukee's Southside into a sustainable showcase for urban community gardens across the country.
American Rivers completed retrofitting over 12 acres of impervious surface in the Wilson Park Creek Subwatershed.
Ten years ago, on July 1, 1999, American Rivers and our partners celebrated a historic success when Edwards Dam was removed from the Kennebec River in Augusta, Maine. The dam removal marked a turning point for river conservation in our country. Since then, more than 600 outdated dams have been removed nationwide, and the number of recorded dam removals has grown each year.
With our funding support and planning assistance, the Horse Creek dam in the Sisquoc River basin near Santa Barbara was blown up to make way for steelhead.
We have helped fund a local watershed group to remove numerous poorly designed road crossings that prevented coho salmon and steelhead from reaching large portions of the Mattole River watershed.
Meadows are critical to the larger watershed because of their unique hydrologic and ecological functions. They store spring floodwaters and release cool flows in late summer; they filter out sediment and pollutants, produce high-quality forage and provide habitat for rare and threatened species. American Rivers is currently working on the critical needs of our Sierra Meadows through several different projects.
American Rivers is working at the local level to review current codes and ordinances to provide sound recommendations to Planning Commissions and legislative bodies to reduce hard surfaces, create incentives to implement low impact development techniques such as rain gardens, bioretention, and green roofs, and protect buffers. These local changes will reduce polluted stormwater runoff and flooding and increase greenspace.
Our list of 60 dams that were removed in 2010, benefitting hundreds of miles of rivers nationwide.
We are developing and standardizing methods to assess, prioritize and restore Sierra meadows and guidelines for monitoring post-restoration outcomes.
In California, at least 80% of the historic spawning and rearing habitat historically available to salmon and steelhead has been blocked by barriers. Our California program focuses on removing obsolete dams and other barriers to provide fish migration and restore more natural river conditions
American Rivers is providing funding to California State Parks through our National Partnership with the NOAA Community-based Restoration Program to look at the possibility of dam removal and river restoration to open up over 60 miles of Eel River to salmon. Dam removal would mean there would be no more barriers to salmon on the South Fork of the Eel River. The dam is also a liability and cost to California State Parks and California taxpayers so there would also be financial benefits to removal.
American Rivers' work on the Green River will remove the first dam on the river, the Wiley & Russell Dam. The dam is a timber crib and concrete dam that is 14-feet high and 165 feet long. The Town is also considering fish passage at the second dam, the Mill Street Dam, and partners will investigate additional options for the two upstream dams once passage is achieved at the lower dams.
The Klamath River once supported the third-largest salmon run on the West Coast. Today, salmon and steelhead runs are a fraction of their historic abundance, with some near extinction.
The Penobscot River Restoration Trust, of which American Rivers is a founding member, has been working toward removing Penobscot's outdated dams for many years. Removing the river's two lowermost dams (Veazie Dam and Great Works Dam) and installing fish passage on two other dams will restore access to roughly 1,000 miles of habitat for the river's fish, making this project one of the most significant dam removal efforts ever.
American Rivers is working with the Center for Ecosystem Restoration, the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others to remove dams as part of the Shawsheen River Restoration Project in order to restore a free-flowing native river ecosystem.
Some of California's oldest dams are located on the Yuba river, blocking salmon and steelhead from their historic habitat in the upper Yuba basin.
The West Fork of the Carson River meanders down the Sierra through Hope Valley, a highly visible meadow American Rivers is working to restore with our project partners.
Flood risk is growing in the Central Valley because the current flood conveyance system is insufficient to contain existing or future floods. American Rivers is working to reduce risk, restore ecosystems through flood conveyance and appropriate land usage.
American Rivers is working to protect and restore the Delta for fish, birds, and people, and to provide sufficient water supply for the people of California through habitat restoration, flood management improvements, among other changes in operation.
As exemplified by the Yolo Bypass in California American Rivers is promoting the multiple benefits provided by flood bypasses for risk reduction and habitat restoration.
A bypass in the Lower San Joaquin would provide the only opportunity for expanding conveyance capacity, to protect cities, enhance habitat, and prepare for climate change.
American Rivers is working to integrate sustainable flood management strategies into the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan to protect Californians, restore native habitat, and enhance the reliability of upstream reservoirs.
American Rivers is participating in the first major tidal wetlands restoration on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, restoring over six miles of shoreline and providing recreational opportunities.
The Yolo Bypass flood easement allows California to flood land in for public safety and ecological benefit. To expedite the habitat restoration and native species revival on the bypass American River is advocating for a controlled notch system on the Fremont Weir.
Through the relicensing of the Oroville Dam, American Rivers is helping to restore water flows and temperature, floodplain habitat, habitat for salmon and steelhead, and improve recreational opportunities along the Feather River.
American Rivers installed green infrastructure (raingarden, bioswale, and pervious concrete) to help eliminate runoff pollution before it reaches the Yuba River, spawning grounds for spring run Chinook salmon.
We are exploring how meadow restoration directly impacts private landowners, particularly ranchers, and where meadow restoration on private land can yield multiple economic and conservation benefits.
The Pauley Creek Meadows projects is restoring 440 acres of Sierra meadows, linking three large meadows together and introducing citizen science monitors to this beautiful landscape.
Restoring cultural and ecological integrity to Bear Valley Meadow while integrating climate change predictions into the restoration design
American Rivers works on the local, state and federal levels to promote a range of green infrastructure solutions such as rain gardens, green roofs, and rain barrels. These approaches work in concert with nature to collect and filter runoff, reduce flooding, and minimize pollution in our rivers and streams while helping to save money and energy too.
American Rivers is partnering with the Alliance for Water Efficiency and the Environmental Law Institute on a one-year project exploring the links between water efficiency and instream flows in the Colorado River basin.
The Sierra Water Trust project seeks to improve water quality and increase aquatic function and biodiversity in the Sierra Nevada Region through building capacity to use water rights acquisition as a tool for stream restoration, to examine watershed problems in a broader context and to use science to monitor and manage water availability and use in Sierra streams.
Creating a win-win situation for rivers and agriculture in California's San Gregorio watershed.