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.
American Rivers and partners are working to protect new rivers with Wild and Scenic designation, including rivers in the North Cascades, Olympic Peninsula, and the Rogue. They are outstanding rivers with special fish and wildlife habitat, clean water, and recreation opportunities for future generations.
The Yampa River in northwest Colorado is the last major free-flowing river in the Colorado River Basin. Carving through beautiful canyons and rich with history, the Yampa joins the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument. Because of its wild nature, the Yampa and its canyons provide refuge for endangered species and offer unparalleled recreational opportunities.
In December 2012, the Bureau of Reclamation released the Colorado River Basin Study, a comprehensive look at projected water shortages and outdated water management in a basin that the American west has drawn heavily on for decades.
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 Outdated or unsafe dams came out of rivers across the nation, restoring 400 miles of streams for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people across the country.
Until 1998, the Colorado River stretched all the way from its source in the Rockies to Sea of Cortez. Now, it dries up in the Sonoran Desert miles before it reaches the sea. The Colorado River is the lifeline of the west, fueling economies in seven states where people use the river's water for their material sustenance; millions more use the river itself for recreation.
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 Since then, more than 600 outdated dams have been removed nationwide, and the number of recorded dam removals has grown each year.
American Rivers is partnering with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission to alleviate localized flooding, improve in-stream habitat, reestablish connectivity for resident and migratory fish (including American shad, hickory shad, alewife, river herring, American eel, bass, shiners, and suckers) , and restore free-flowing conditions along Darby Creek, a direct tributary to the Delaware River.
The Verde River is an important tributary to the Colorado River and a unique resource in Arizona. One of the few perennially flowing rivers in the Southwest, the Verde sustains lush riverside forest, a large and diverse wildlife population, and provides critical drinking water to many Central Arizona communities. Aboriginal cultures have been present in the area for thousands of years. Cliff dwellings can still be seen in the rocks above the river.
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.
American Rivers is promoting green infrastructure solutions within state urban stormwater permits. Green infrastructure is a proven solution that is easily implemented in urban areas.
Our list of 60 dams that were removed in 2010, benefitting hundreds of miles of rivers nationwide.
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.
American Rivers is working with the Friends of the Patapsco Valley State Park, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to remove several dams on the beautiful Patapsco River.
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.
American Rivers hosted the workshop "Solutions for Municipalities Managing Stormwater" at Swarthmore College in January 2009. The workshop was conducted to present sound stormwater management to municipalities and their engineers, citizen-based watershed groups, and civic leadership.
American Rivers is working to restore DarbyCcreek and use green infrastructure to mimic the way water would naturally flow over the land. The Darby Creek restoration project will restore habitat and stream function by removing four barriers within the creek. At the same time, American Rivers' Clean Water program has partnered with several local agencies and groups to install rain barrels at homes and foster community based solutions to stormwater management.
American Rivers' Montana Wild Rivers Campaign aims to protect the state's great, pristine rivers while they are still pristine, safeguarding against climate change and harmful development.
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.