58 Dams to be Removed in 2009
Give Thanks to Our Rivers: Safety, Fish and Wildlife, and Improved Water Quality Benefits Illustrate Need for More Green Infrastructure Investments NationwideNovember 27th, 2009
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 571-334-5628
Serena McClain, American Rivers, 703-485-6356
Washington, D.C. — American Rivers today released its annual list of 58 dams in 16 states that have been removed or are slated for removal in 2009. Thanks to the removal of these outdated dams, communities across the country have the opportunity to enjoy better water quality, improved public safety and flood protection, and more abundant fish and wildlife. View a full list of these dam removal projects.
While some dams are beneficial to society, many have outlived their usefulness and continue to age and deteriorate as development both upstream and downstream of dams increases. These dams can increase flood risks for communities, and old or poorly maintained dams are at risk of failure. If left in place, dams threaten the lives of boaters and swimmers, degrade water quality, and block migrating fish and wildlife.
That is why, for more than ten years, American Rivers has led a national effort to restore rivers through removal of dams that no longer make sense. The organization’s expertise and advocacy have contributed to the removal of more than 200 dams nationwide. States on this year’s list include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
“It is time to rethink our nation’s water infrastructure. These dam removals are an example of how our communities can reap multiple benefits when we work with nature instead of against it,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “Streams, wetlands, and floodplains give our communities essential services, like clean water, flood protection, and abundant fisheries. When we help rivers we are actually helping ourselves.”
For example, in Pennsylvania, the dilapidated Saucon Park Dam was built in the 1920s for recreational purposes, but, most recently, it only served to exacerbate localized flooding and stream bank erosion. American Rivers worked with the town and other partners to remove it this year and restore Saucon Creek, which is a tributary to the Lehigh River. The project also reconnected three miles of important spawning habitat for fish such as American shad, American eel, alewife, blueback herring, hickory shad, brown trout, brook trout, redbreast sunfish, and white sucker. This strategy is integral to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s efforts to rebuild depleted fish stocks in the Delaware and Lehigh river basins.
In Washington, the 80-year-old, 26-foot high Hemlock Dam on Trout Creek, a tributary of the Wind River, harmed fish populations and was a public safety hazard. American Rivers provided funding assistance through their national partnership with the NOAA Restoration Center to help remove the dam this summer and restored a safer, healthier Trout Creek. The removal opened up 15 miles of upstream habitat and many more miles of seasonal habitat on tributaries to fish, including the currently threatened Lower Columbia steelhead, and eliminated the risk of swimmers being swept over the dam and into its dangerous hydraulic.
“Our communities can’t afford to waste money, especially now. Dam removal can be the cheapest way to make our communities safer, while also eliminating future maintenance costs and improving the environment,” said Wodder. “Plus, each dam removal project supports, on average, 10 to 12 jobs—a figure that can’t be taken lightly in this fragile economy.”
More than 700 dam removals have been recorded nationwide. While motivation for removing dams may vary, these communities show us that restoration projects provide a multitude of benefits and often breathe new life into river communities and a renewed appreciation for free-flowing, healthy streams.
American Rivers helps communities remove unneeded dams by providing educational, technical, and financial assistance. The organization works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Community-based Restoration Program to fund stream barrier removals in select regions nationwide that help restore rivers, enhance public safety and community resilience, and have clear and identifiable benefits to diadromous fish populations. Applications are currently being accepted until December 18, 2009 for 2010 project funding.