62 Dams Removed to Restore Rivers in 2012

March 12th, 2013

Serena McClain, 202-347-7550
Amy Kober, 503-708-1145

Washington, DC – Communities in 19 states, working in partnership with non-profit organizations and state and federal agencies, removed 62 dams in 2012, American Rivers announced today. Outdated or unsafe dams came out of rivers in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, restoring 400 miles of streams for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people across the country.

American Rivers will add the information on these 62 dam removals to its database of nearly 1,100 dams that have been removed across the country since 1912. Most of those dams (nearly 800) were removed in the past 20 years. American Rivers is the only organization maintaining a record of dam removals in the United States and uses the information to communicate the benefits of dam removal, which include restoring river health and clean water, revitalizing fish and wildlife, improving public safety and recreation, and enhancing local economies.

“The river restoration movement in our country is stronger than ever. Communities nationwide are removing outdated dams because they recognize that a healthy, free-flowing river is a tremendous asset,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers.

The top three states for river restoration through dam removal in 2012 are:

  1. Pennsylvania – 11 dams removed
  2. Massachusetts – 9 dams removed
  3. Oregon – 8 dams removed


The complete list of dam removals in 2012 is available at http://www.americanrivers.org/2012damremovals.

American Rivers played a role in 24 of the dam removals in 2012. This list includes all known dam removals, regardless of the level of American Rivers’ involvement.

“The projects on this list represent more than just data points. They illustrate the power of community,” said Irvin. “Behind many of these projects are stories of dam owners kept awake at night wondering if their dam will survive the next storm, or of local watershed groups struggling to find funding in this tough economy to restore their river and fisheries.”  

Highlights of dam removal and river restoration efforts in 2012 include:

Great Works Dam, Penobscot River, Maine – Removal of this 1,000 foot wide dam during the summer of 2012 kicked off the historic Penobscot River Restoration Project, aimed at reviving native sea-run fish populations, cultural traditions and creating economic and recreational opportunities, while maintaining existing hydropower production along the largest river within Maine. The project, led by American Rivers and multiple partners including the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, continues with the 2013-2014 removal of Veazie Dam and fish passage improvements at other dams, including a bypass at Howland Dam. Ultimately, the project will significantly restore access to 1,000 miles of habitat for Atlantic salmon and numerous additional fish species.

Three dams, Darby Creek, Pennsylvania – Darby Creek flows through an urban landscape just west of Philadelphia, joining the Delaware River at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. The removal of three dams and a set of abandoned railroad piers along Darby Creek will alleviate localized flooding, improve stream habitat, and reestablish 9.7 miles of free-flowing river. The project will benefit a variety of fish including American shad, hickory shad, alewife, river herring, American eel, bass, shiners, and suckers. 

Bartlett Rod Shop Co. Dam, Amethyst Brook, Massachusetts – The Bartlett Rod Shop Co. Dam was originally built in 1820 to provide power for the adjacent gristmill, and later provided power for a fishing rod manufacturing facility. The 20-foot tall stone dam had outlived its original purpose, and the structure had fallen into hazardous disrepair. The Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, in cooperation with the owner, removed the dam in October 2012 in order to restore more than nine miles of upstream habitat and re-connect 253 miles of downstream habitat extending to the Connecticut River. Fish including brown and brook trout, American eel, and sea lamprey will benefit. This project was funded in part through a national partnership between American Rivers and the NOAA Restoration Center.

There are hundreds of thousands of dams blocking rivers across the U.S. While many serve useful purposes, others are obsolete or abandoned. These outdated dams are barriers to migrating fish and limit river recreation opportunities like canoeing and fishing. Dams can create drowning hazards for swimmers, anglers and boaters, and deteriorating dams threaten the safety of downstream communities.


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.