A Story of Woo Hoo and Woah

American Rivers removed two dams this summer in PA — Delp Dam and Krady Mill Dam. These restoration projects will benefit fish, wildlife, and public safety.

Delp Dam being removed on Indian Creek, PA/ | Jessie Thomas-Blate

Dam removal can be simple. Or complicated. Or somewhere in between.

Here at American Rivers, our River Restoration Team likes to celebrate our successes with a boisterous WOO HOO! I think everyone somehow feels invested in the WOO HOOs of our teammates. We’re out there making things happen on the ground. Bringing rivers back to life. That deserves a WOO HOO, right?

Delp Dam Project

In June, I worked on a project up in Telford, Pennsylvania, removing the Delp Dam (aka Swartley Mill Dam and Keller Creamery Dam) on Indian Creek, a Delaware River tributary. This structure was part of an old mill that was no longer in use and in poor shape. In fact, about a week before construction began, a storm carved around the end of the dam to the bedrock, forming a breach and draining the impoundment. That made our lives a bit easier, as most of the dam removal itself was able to be completed on more or less dry land (woo hoo!).

This concrete dam was removed as compensatory mitigation for construction on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Removal of Delp Dam will open 2,600 linear feet of Indian Creek and restore natural form and function to a stream that supports habitat for fish and wildlife. American Rivers, the PA Turnpike Commission and the PA Fish and Boat Commission are the primary partners for this project.

In this first phase of the project, we removed the dam and stabilized the banks, although we were happy to discover that one of the banks was largely bedrock near the dam (that means it won’t be undercut by river flows). Over the course of the next year, we will see how the river adjusts itself through storm events and see if any additional work needs to be done to ensure a solid sustainable project. Directly downstream of this dam is a bridge crossing, so we want to be sure that the dam removal does not compromise that structure in the long-term. So far, everything looks great! Woo hoo!

Krady Mill Dam Project

In July, I hopped on over to Columbia, Pennsylvania, home of the National Watch and Clock Museum and home base of Turkey Hill (for any iced tea and ice cream lovers out there). This was another low-head former mill dam removal project on Chiques Creek, a Susquehanna River tributary, known as the Krady Mill Dam. This dam was built in the late 1800s to provide water power to a historic mill (still onsite). The concrete dam was approximately 5 feet high by 100 feet long. The dam was disconnected from the mill and no longer was serving a useful purpose.

Removal of Krady Mill Dam has opened 2.9 river miles and restored natural form and function to a stream that supports American eel, resident fish and historic migratory fish runs. Woo hoo! American Rivers, the PA Fish and Boat Commission and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are the primary partners for this project.

Both of these projects removed safety hazards for their communities and eliminated the liability for owners. So many low-head dams have injured or killed people recreating around them. In fact, American Rivers is going to be removing a killer dam in Patapsco Valley State Park in Maryland starting in a couple of weeks! Woo hoo! (Stay tuned for more information on that project soon.)

ENTER: Storms for days. And days. And days.

The best laid plans… something something… woah.

Anyone living in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. likely has experienced a deluge of rain this spring and summer. Well, as soon as we completed the Krady Mill Dam removal last month, Pennsylvania got hit with a major flood in many watersheds, including Indian and Chiques creeks.

It was frustrating that we didn’t have more time for vegetation to establish at Krady Mill. As you can see, a lot of our matting washed up and got tangled with debris (woah!). In this case, we have decided to clean up the site and let nature take its course for a while. We will revisit the site next summer to see if any additional work needs to be done once the river channel settles a bit. In reality, our floodplain seemed to act as it was designed, so we were happy to see that (woo hoo!). We will see what Mother Nature sends our way in the coming months.

At the site of the former Delp Dam, things faired pretty well. Our dam owners did not experience flooding in the mill building, as they would have in the past, so they were happy about that (woo hoo!). The river will likely continue to adjust and move a little bit as storms come through until it finds its new normal. We will also revisit this site in summer 2019 to see if any further work needs to be done to ensure the long-term sustainability of the restoration work. It is great to see this site greening up already! WOO HOO!

One response to “A Story of Woo Hoo and Woah

  1. Wonderful work! So nice to have clean safer rivers and streams.
    Eliminating man made hazards is good.

    Have there been any documented cases of smaller Low Head Dams and Weirs, 1ft to 2ft in height and less than 200ft wide causing drownings or injuries?

    I know most anything 2.5 ft high or greater has sufficient capacity to cause a deadly recirculating current.

    But smaller ones 1ft high or less, often become completely submerged underwater before they can create a recirculating roller current.

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