Fort Covington Dam Removal to Benefit Public Safety, Flood Protection, and Fisheries

Major river restoration project begins this week

November 11th, 2008

Stephanie Lindloff, American Rivers, 518-482-2631
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 202-347-7550 

Fort Covington, NY – A major river restoration project in the state of New York begins this week, with the removal of the outdated and unsafe Fort Covington Dam on the Salmon River.

“This is a significant project for communities in the Salmon River watershed, and for the entire state of New York,” said Stephanie Lindloff, senior director for river restoration at American Rivers, and co-project manager of the Fort Covington Dam removal.  “We commend the Town of Fort Covington for taking the initiative to remove this outdated and unsafe dam, and for recognizing all of the community benefits that will come with a healthier, free-flowing Salmon River.”

The Fort Covington Dam is the first barrier on the Salmon River, located five miles from the confluence with the St. Lawrence River. The dam is a public safety hazard that also contributes to upstream flooding because it causes high flows to back up more than they naturally would in a free-flowing river.

In addition to improving public safety, the dam removal will enhance recreational boating opportunities and reestablish fish access to more than 35 miles of the Salmon River and tributaries. The project will boost sport fisheries and bring significant benefits to this rural community. 

The construction crew has been preparing the site in recent weeks and hopes to begin dismantling the dam next week, weather permitting.  If the dam’s demolition cannot be completed this fall, the project will be put on hold until June 2009, after the spring spawning season.

“With the help of town residents, we have worked hard to make this decision to remove the dam on the Salmon River,” the Fort Covington Town Board said in a statement.   “This effort will improve habitat for a variety of fish, restore the Salmon River and eliminate a public safety hazard. The Town Board believes that the removal of the dam on the Salmon River in Fort Covington is the best choice for all of us who will enjoy this marvelous asset — the Salmon River.”

“The damming and diversion of free-flowing rivers and streams result in habitat fragmentation and limited options for fish migrations,” said Christopher D. Doley, Director of the NOAA Restoration Center. “Each dam requires a specific set of conservation actions, and for the Fort Covington Dam, removal was the best option.”

“The New York State Department of State is proud to be a part of this project that will restore the Salmon River.  This project will boost the economy of upstate New York in terms of commercial and recreational fishing, boating, and tourism as well as benefit the great number of fish species that migrate through the River.  The project demonstrates that all levels of government can come together in partnership with non-governmental organizations and communities to restore New York’s waterways and create great economic opportunities,” said Secretary of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez.

“This is a great example of people who are concerned about our valued fish and wildlife resources pulling together in partnership to improve the fisheries of the Salmon River,” said David Stilwell of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  “We look forward to working together in partnership on many more projects in the St. Lawrence Valley.”

“This dedicated partnership to remove the Fort Covington Dam, which will help enhance the vitality of the St. Lawrence River Valley, underscores the Power Authority’s commitment to stewardship of environmental and recreational North Country projects,” said Richard M. Kessel, president and chief executive officer, New York Power Authority.

“The removal of the Fort Covington Dam exemplifies what our partnership with the NOAA Restoration Center wants to invest in,” said Johanna Laderman, executive director of the FishAmerica Foundation. “We are pleased we could be a part of this great community project to restore sportfish habitat and benefit New York’s more than one million anglers.”

The project will benefit a variety of fisheries, including popular sport fish like walleye, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, brown trout and rainbow trout.  Lake sturgeon may also benefit. The project will also improve habitat for a state-listed threatened species, the Eastern sand darter.

This long-anticipated dam removal has been a true partnership effort including government agencies, private foundations, conservation organizations, industry and academia.  Primary partners and funders of the construction phase of the project include: Town of Fort Covington, American Rivers, FishAmerica Foundation and the American Sportfishing Association, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, New York Power Authority, NOAA Community-based Restoration Program, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  The engineering firm Milone and MacBroom, Inc. of Connecticut designed the project and Tatro Construction of Vermont is doing the demolition.

Additional partners and funders of the planning and design phase include Great Lakes Protection Fund, New York Rivers United, NOAA Great Lakes Coastal Watershed Restoration Program, NYS Department of State, Ohio State University, State Senator Elizabeth Little, and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. 


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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 the 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.

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