64 Dams to be Removed in 2008
Clean water and safety benefits illustrate need for more green infrastructure investments nationwideNovember 12th, 2008
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 202-347-7550
Serena McClain, American Rivers, 202-347-7550
Washington, D.C. – American Rivers today released its list of 64 dams in 14 states that have been removed or are slated for removal in 2008. Thanks to the removal of these outdated dams, communities in California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin will enjoy better water quality, improved public safety and flood protection, and more abundant fish and wildlife. A list of these projects is available at: www.AmericanRivers.org/2008DamRemovals.
For more than ten years, American Rivers has led a national effort to restore rivers through removing dams that no longer make sense. This effort has enabled a gradual shift in society’s view of dams, and dramatically increased consideration of dam removal as a reasonable and beneficial option for restoring rivers.
“When we tear down old infrastructure like obsolete dams, we build up our natural infrastructure the streams, wetlands and floodplains that give our communities essential services like clean water, flood protection, and other economic benefits,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.
While some dams are beneficial to society, many have outlived their usefulness and often do more harm than good. Some dams increase flood risks for communities, and old or poorly maintained dams are at risk of failure. According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, there are 10,213 high hazard potential dams across the United States that would pose a threat to human life if they were to fail.
Even small dams can pose a risk to anglers, paddlers, swimmers, and children playing nearby. These dams, with deadly recirculating currents that can appear immediately downstream, have been given the macabre nickname “drowning machines.”
Dams can also harm water quality, block migrating fish and wildlife, and limit river recreation opportunities.
“We can’t afford to waste money, and dam removal is often the cheapest way to deal with a dam’s safety, economic, and environmental problems,” said Wodder.
Communities that choose to pull out obsolete dams can benefit from better water quality, revitalized fisheries, new recreational opportunities, increased real estate values, and recovered land suitable for parks and other public use.
“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 let nature work, and when we let rivers be rivers,” said Wodder.
Maxwell Pond Dam on New Hampshire’s Black Brook (a tributary of the Merrimack River), which is slated for removal this fall, is one example of a project that will have many benefits for the community. The City of Manchester, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and other partners are taking innovative steps to remove this outdated dam and restore eight miles of free-flowing river for alewife, blueback herring, Atlantic salmon, and other migratory fish. The city is planning a major park revitalization effort in anticipation of the new free-flowing stream. The stream restoration project will improve overall water quality and get Black Brook removed from the state’s “impaired waters” list.
Another upcoming dam removal that will benefit the local community is the Woodley Dam on the Apple River in Wisconsin. This 18-foot earthen dam partially failed during a flood in April 2001, necessitating an emergency draining of the reservoir. The dam, which once provided a small amount of power, is being removed to alleviate the county’s liability for the structure and the impacts of other potential dam failures if the structure were to remain in place. In addition to the removal, restoration plans also include streambank stabilization and the construction of a snowmobile bridge.
“Global warming threatens our clean water supply and increases the risks from floods and droughts. Traditional infrastructure isn’t enough to handle these new realities. A new, green approach to water infrastructure will protect public health, safety, and quality of life, and give communities the flexibility and security we need,” said Wodder.
Over 700 dam removals have been recorded nationwide. These dams were removed for a variety of reasons but many were in a state of disrepair. This promising trend is the result of renewed appreciation for free-flowing, healthy streams and the aging of much of the nation’s dam infrastructure.
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 3, 2008 for 2009 project funding. American Rivers also provides funding and technical assistance for dam removal and river restoration projects in Pennsylvania in partnership with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Growing Greener Program.