Visit our Flickr page to view Images of the Patapsco and the dams mentioned below.
Washington, DC — American Rivers will receive more than $4 million in economic stimulus funds to undertake what will be one of Maryland’s largest river restoration projects to date – the removal of two outdated dams on the Patapsco River, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced today. The Patapsco River Restoration Project involves the removal of the Simkins and Union dams on the lower Patapsco River to improve public safety, expand recreation opportunities, and benefit native fish. This project will help boost Maryland’s economy by supporting roughly 42 jobs in the construction, engineering, and scientific and technical consulting sectors over an estimated 51 week period.
“By removing these outdated and unsafe dams we will not only improve fish runs, water quality, and public safety, we will create good jobs and boost the economy. It’s a win-win for Maryland’s communities,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.
Currently, the Patapsco River cannot live up to its full potential because it is blocked by four dams (Bloede, Simkins, Union, and Daniels dams). The dams are relics from the late 1800s and early 1900s and no longer serve a functional purpose. The dams are a serious danger to area swimmers as there have been several deaths at Bloede Dam over the years. This outdated and deteriorating infrastructure also blocks migratory fish like American eel, alewife, blueback herring, and American shad from 374 miles of historic mainstem and tributary habitat. Because of the serious safety concerns and restoration potential at the site, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the owner of Bloede Dam, is exploring removal of the structure. Further, while the river sections above and below Simkins and Bloede dams are popular canoe and kayak runs, both sites are difficult to portage around and hamper recreation.
The project also has the potential to improve water quality in the river and the Chesapeake Bay because it will boost populations of Elliptio complanata, a freshwater mussel that naturally filters and purifies the water. As part of the Patapsco River Restoration Project, pre- and post-dam removal scientific monitoring efforts will document changes to the river and its fish and wildlife. These studies are anticipated for at least three years.
Nestled within the Patapsco Valley State Park, the Patapsco River flows for almost 35 miles through Elkridge, Ellicott City, and other Maryland towns before it reaches Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay. The Patapsco is one of the Baltimore area’s hidden jewels, providing residents and visitors with fishing opportunities, trails to wander, segments to canoe and kayak with class I and II rapids, and respite from the summer heat. Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner while aboard a ship on the Patapsco River in 1814.
“The Patapsco is central to the state’s and the nation’s history and restoring its health will allow more Americans to connect with the river and our shared heritage,” said Wodder. “This project will serve as a model for future dam removal and river protection efforts across the state.”
For over a decade, American Rivers has pioneered a science-based approach to the removal of outdated dams and other stream barriers that engages communities in restoring their rivers, motivates civic leaders to become champions and identifies state and federal funds to make the removals possible. Our expertise and advocacy have contributed to the removal of more than 200 dams across the country.
The effort to remove the Simkins and Union dams has been a partnership among American Rivers, NOAA, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Friends of the Patapsco Valley State Park.
The announcement about the Patapsco falls during a big week for river restoration nationally. Ten years ago this week, Edwards Dam was removed from Maine’s Kennebec River, marking a significant turning point for the practice of river restoration and dam removal in our country.
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American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.