Our work to remove dams and restore rivers often hinges on more than a single issue. Nowhere is this truer than our efforts to remove the Bloede Dam on the Patapsco River in Maryland. While the primary driver for this restoration effort is the opening of more than 65 miles of spawning habitat for migratory fish, safety and the need for ongoing maintenance are just as critical at this site.
Removal of the Bloede Dam is an investment in Maryland’s future. It solves a critical infrastructure issue that has plagued the state since at least the 1980’s— costing Maryland millions of dollars in repairs, studies, and staffing over time. If the dam remains in place, the cost of repairs needed to comply with Maryland Dam Safety requirements could exceed $1 million. Removing the Bloede Dam enables the restoration of a natural, resilient river system and eliminates any future financial obligations by the State for repairs and long-term maintenance.
Located within the Patapsco Valley State Park, one of the most popular state parks in Maryland, the dam is also an attractive nuisance that has played a significant role in more than nine deaths and untold injuries since the 1980s, including two in the last two years. Despite signage and regular patrols by Maryland Park Service staff, many summer visitors ignore the posted warnings and continue to put their lives in jeopardy.
Thankfully, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and others have invested more than $8 million to restore the Patapsco River (including earlier removals of the Simkins and Union dams). Removal of the Bloede Dam is the key to realizing the benefits of this comprehensive watershed restoration effort.
Maryland State funding is also critical to implementing this project and eliminating future state liability associated with the dam, and this funding is currently in jeopardy. The Maryland General Assembly is considering the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2015, which includes cuts to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ budget that will mean the loss of $1 million previously allocated to remove the state-owned Bloede Dam. Governor Hogan committed to ensuring the funding is available in a recent Bay Journal article; however, funds must be reinstated in the budget to ensure that funding remains dedicated to the Bloede Dam removal.