The Proof is in the Pudding
Logically, using dam removal as a technique to restore a river and allow fish to access historic habitat makes sense. However, an important component of demonstrating the success of river restoration projects such as these is being able to gather baseline data before a project starts and monitor the project following implementation. The true rewards of a dam removal project come when that American shad actually swims past the former dam site or the water quality is improved such that a river can be removed from a state’s TMDL list. Monitoring allows us to capture these successes.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PAFBC) recently shared some of their monitoring results online for habitat restoration projects on Spring Creek, one of the Northeast’s premiere wild trout fisheries. Chief among these restoration projects is the removal of the McCoy-Linn Dam. This 12-foot high dam, which was originally built in the early 1700s to power iron forges, was removed in 2007 to enhance wild trout habitat. In order to document the positive impacts removing the dam would have on wild trout populations, the PAFBC surveyed several points along Spring Creek prior to and one year after the removal of the McCoy-Linn Dam. The results of this survey work show that, during the one year following the removal, wild brown trout populations increased threefold. As one of the major supporters of this project (American Rivers’ Free-Flowing Pennsylvania program provided $100,000 for the removal), seeing concrete evidence of the project’s success is a true ‘return on investment’.
For a detailed look at the dam removal process, check out the ClearWater Conservancy’s website.