Removal Of Skinner Creek Dams Kicks Off Slew Of Restoration In Western Pennsylvania

The 2013 dam removal construction season is off to a great start here in Western Pennsylvania. American Rivers is undertaking several dam removal projects that will reconnect habitat and provide fish passage, as well as to improve river safety and recreational access for people. Here’s a tour of some Western Pennsylvania dam removal and river restoration projects that are scheduled for the next few months.

Construction kicked off August 12 with the removal of two stone dams on Skinner Creek in McKean County to benefit wild brook trout and burbot. Burbot are fresh-water cod and listed as a Pennsylvania Endangered Species. In fact, other than Lake Erie, the only place they are found in Pennsylvania is in tributaries to the Upper Allegheny River.

Burbot | © PA Fish & Boat Commission

Dam removal on Skinner Creek will benefit burbots, a Pennsylvania endangered species.

The Old Skinner and Sherwood Hollow dams, which previously provided drinking water to Port Allegany, PA, were abandoned in the 1970’s due to bacterial contamination. Removing these two dams will reconnect habitat and provide headwaters access necessary for spawning and rearing. The PA Fish & Boat Commission and American Rivers are moving fish out of the construction area, keeping them safely downstream with a temporary check-dam. Once work is complete, the temporary dam will also be removed so that fish can access the entire stream for the first time in nearly a century. Watch AR Facebook and Twitter posts next week to see live updates from the field.

Old Skinner Dam, PA | © Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy

Old Skinner Dam, PA | © Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy

Additional upcoming removals include:

Commodore Dam on Hinty Run in Indiana County will come down in September, providing fish passage for wild brook trout, as well as removing a safety hazard. The dam, classified as high-hazard, would have required $500,000 in repairs to ensure its safety. Green Township Water Authority chose to switch over to groundwater for public supply, and then work with American Rivers to remove the dam.

Century-old Hospital Dam on Conewango Creek in Warren County has claimed at least 5 lives in the past 30 years, but that will change when American Rivers removes this dangerous dam later this year. The partially breached dam causes perilous water conditions for boaters on this newly designated water trail. The narrow opening also constricts water, resulting in faster flows that prevent slow-swimming fish from moving upstream. Removing the Hospital Dam and an unnamed dam remnant immediately upstream will be an important improvement for aquatic habitat and recreational access. In fact, these two structures are the last barriers on the Conewango Creek mainstem, and their removal will make Conewango Creek free-flowing from its confluence with the Allegheny River to the headwaters north of Jamestown, NY.

American Rivers is partnering with PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for river restoration projects in three state parks this season. We will remove Trough Creek Dam in Trough Creek State Park to improve spawning access of lake-run fish into Great Trough Creek, as well as to improve safety for fishing and boating. In Moraine State Park, we will remove the Duck Pond Dam on Muddy Run. This dam was originally built to create waterfowl habitat, but in addition to not being successful, it also blocks lake-run fish from spawning in Muddy Run. In late August, American Rivers will return to Bendigo State Park for stream and recreational improvements at the site of the former Bendigo Dam, which American Rivers removed in 2010 from the East Branch of the Clarion River. Habitat enhancements will make the river more interesting and hospitable for brook trout and other river resident fish, while the addition of a canoe launch and a handicap-accessible fishing area will provide park visitors with greater access to this free-flowing reach of the river.

  • Commodore Dam

    Hinty Run, PA
    © Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy

    Commodore Dam, Hinty Run, PA | © Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy

  • Hospital Dam

    Conewango Creek, PA

    © Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy

    Hospital Dam, Conewango Creek, PA | © Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy

  • Trough Creek Dam

    Trough Creek State Park, PA

    © Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy

    Trough Creek Dam, Trough Creek State Park, PA | © Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy

  • Duck Pond Dam

    Moraine State Park, PA

    © Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy

    Duck Pond Dam, Moraine State Park, PA | © Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy