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.
In October 2013, Stearns Dam joined a list of other note-worthy Pacific Northwest dams: Elwha, Condit, Marmot and Savage Rapids when it was removed from the Crooked River.
The purpose of the Nooksack River Recreation Plan (NRRP) is to provide guidance and clear recommendations for managing recreation use in the upper watersheds while at the same time protecting and restoring streamside and riverine habitat for fish and wildlife.
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.
Given that water efficiency is often the least damaging, cost-effective water supply option, US EPA Region 4, developed guidelines to assist communities seeking new water supplies to better understand the water efficiency options that they need to consider prior to applying for a permit to construct a water supply reservoir.
Explicit standards recognizing water flow as essential to supporting existing and classified designated uses are crucial to meeting the goals of the Clean Water Act. While water flows are implicitly protected, in practice some State agencies charged with implementing the Clean Water Act focus on the chemical component of the water quality and provide only cursory review of how their decisions will affect physical and biological integrity.
American Rivers work in Columbia, SC to improve flows in the Broad River.
The construction of water supply reservoir projects requires a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit for "the discharge of the dredged or fill material in waters of the U.S." resulting from building the dam and control structures.
The water quality components of the Clean Water Act are aimed at protecting the full scope of benefits that clean and abundant water provide to society at large. The parameters for success of this goal are water quality standards that protect existing and classified designated uses.
American Rivers is working in North Carolina to implement the recommended policies in the Hidden Reservoir report to improve water efficiency.
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.
Restoring natural flow patterns to this stretch of the Cheoah river, has already improved its diverse native aquatic life, helping species like the endangered Appalachian Elktoe mussel to make a comeback. The new flows also allow for improved fishing and world-class whitewater boating.
A key element of our project in the upper Flint is to help convene an Upper Flint River Working GroupÛÓa group of diverse stakeholders coming together with the common goal of restoring healthy flows in the upper Flint. Although the Flint has suffered in recent years from declining low flows, collaborative work on finding solutions can restore the river to health.
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.
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.
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.
American Rivers is working with the Yakama Indian Nation and conservation partners at the National Wildlife Federation, The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, and others to negotiate a comprehensive package of large scale fish passage, habitat restoration and protection, and water management improvements to restore abundant Yakima River salmon and steelhead in a way that earns the lasting support of the Yakama Nation, local farmers, and local communities.
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.
Our list of 60 dams that were removed in 2010, benefitting hundreds of miles of rivers nationwide.
Removal of the dam began with a breach draining the reservoir on October 26, 2011, and will allow the White Salmon River to once again be home to abundant wild salmon and steelhead runs
The removal of two dams on Washington's Elwha River is one of the most significant river restoration projects of our time.
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.
Kellogg Dam is located at the mouth of Kellogg Creek which is a tributary to the Willamette River in the City of Milwaukie, Oregon. The creek historically had populations of Coho salmon before the dam was constructed, but now this 16 foot high dam blocks passage for Coho and other salmonids. The City of Milwaukie plans to remove the dam as part of an effort to restore these historic Coho runs and to revitalize the Milwaukie riverfront for the local community. The removal will also include the restoration of the stream and lakebed upstream of the dam to create excellent habitat along cold water pools in this area.
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 salmon and steelhead of the Snake River are magnificent creatures, traveling over 900 miles from the sea to spawn in Idaho's high mountain streams. Unfortunately, this icon of the region is threatened with extinction, due in large part to the effects of the four lower Snake River dams.
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 is working to improve the health of the Savannah River's Augusta Shoals. We successfully negotiated a new agreement with the City of Augusta, Georgia and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League (SCCCL) to improve natural water flows from upstream dams.
Wake County and the City of Raleigh have proposed a new reservoir on the Little River.
Georgia's Flint River is one of only 40 rivers left in the United States that flow for more than 200 miles undammed, and American Rivers intends to keep the Flint that way. Rising from humble origins just south of Atlanta - the river's headwater streams actually flow out of pipes buried beneath the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International - the Flint quickly becomes a water supply source for communities in the southern part of the Atlanta metropolitan area and downstream throughout west-central Georgia.
American Rivers is working in targeted states on water supply legislation that will protect the drinking water supply of our communities and the rivers that provide recreational, economic, and quality of life benefits in the face of climate change and population growth.
We are focusing our current efforts in North and South Carolina.
American Rivers is working to permanently protect Illabot Creek's free-flowing character, water quality and outstanding fish and wildlife values. Illabot Creek, a tributary to the Wild and Scenic Skagit River, provides crucial habitat for two of the Northwest's beloved icons - salmon and eagles.
American Rivers is working with a coalition of conservation and recreation groups to protect and designate nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and the entire 11-mile Pratt River as Wild and Scenic Rivers, as well as add 22,000 acres of new wilderness to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area.
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.
Water Efficiency in the Southeast Local governments are uniquely positioned to manage municipal water use. American Rivers has been working with communities across the Southeast to adopt policies that increase water efficiency and decrease water waste.
The Northwest's magnificent rivers are the lifeblood of natural ecosystems and human communities. We cannot take our rivers and fresh water for granted. Climate change, population growth, and the increasing value of water as a marketable commodity have led to calls for new water supply reservoirs and more water withdrawals from rivers, both of which can devastate river ecosystems.
American Rivers is working to protect the Molalla Rivers, which is an important resource for clean water, and additionally is an important habitat for salmon, trout and steelhead, along with other species that are part of this river ecosystem. Additionally the river is an important place for river recreation.
American Rivers' has been active in protecting the rivers of Mt. Hood-- Oregon enjoys a reputation for some of the greatest river ecosystems and river recreation in the country.
Flowing from the high snowfields and glaciers of Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, and the Twin Sisters range in the North Cascades, the Nooksack River system is home to all five types of salmon, steelhead, bull trout, bald eagle, black bear, cougar, elk, and many other fish and wildlife species that need intact, wild places to survive. Whitewater rivers, incredible mountain views and old-growth forests provide world-class hiking, kayaking, and other recreation opportunities. Yet the majority of the Nooksack system remains unprotected
American Rivers is a core member of a coalition working to protect over 400 miles of river habitat on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State through Wild and Scenic designation.
American Rivers is working with the Volcano Country Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition to protect 200 miles of rivers and streams in Southwest Washington's Volcano Country under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
American Rivers helps to protect the Congaree River Blue Trail in South Carolina to assure enhanced stream flows to support river recreation and a health and clean water supply
With the help of American Rivers, Hitchcock Creek in Rockingham, North Carolina is becoming a more valuable community asset, and will serve as an attraction for fishing, boating, and other recreation. Until recently, a dam degraded the Hitchcock Creek, blocked migrating fish from spawning and prevented the community from safely enjoying their river through boating and fishing.
The Waccamaw River Blue Trail will not only improve recreational opportunities, it will also help to educate citizens, local governments, and elected officials about the importance of the river as a community asset, increase community involvement in the river, and support conservation. This project will also serve as a model for how to work with city and county councils to encourage land protection and riparian buffers through educational and incentive programs. the river as a community asset, increase community involvement in the river, and support conservation.
American Rivers has helped to create the Wateree Blue trail, which offers opportunities for river recreation as well as helps to protect the Wateree River.