Frankly my dear, I don’t want a dam. That Bogartian attitude is being sung in force by Washington, D.C.’s American Rivers, which recently released a list of 58 dams in 16 states slated for removal this year. That’s the opening of a lot of paddleable waterways.
While some dams are beneficial, AR says many have outlived their usefulness and continue to age and deteriorate as development both upstream and downstream of dams increases. For more than ten years, AR has led a national effort to restore rivers through removal of dams that no longer make sense. The organization’s advocacy have contributed to the removal of more than 200 dams nationwide. States on this year’s list include California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
“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 work with nature instead of against it,” says AR president Rebecca Wodder. “Streams, wetlands, and floodplains give our communities essential services, like clean water, flood protection, and abundant fisheries. When we help rivers we are actually helping ourselves.”
As an example, she cites the the dilapidated Saucon Park Dam in Pennsylvania, which was built in the 1920s for recreational purposes, but, most recently only exacerbated flooding and stream bank erosion. AR worked with the town and other partners to remove it this year and restore Saucon Creek, a tributary to the Lehigh River. The project also reconnected three miles of important spawning habitat for fish.
In Washington, the 80-year-old, 26-foot-high Hemlock Dam on Trout Creek, a tributary of the Wind River, harmed fish populations and was a public safety hazard. AR provided funding assistance through their national partnership with the NOAA Restoration Center to help remove it and restore a safer, healthier Trout Creek. The removal opened up 15 miles of upstream habitat and many more miles of seasonal habitat on tributaries.
“Our communities can’t afford to waste money, especially now. Dam removal can be the cheapest way to make our communities safer, while also eliminating future maintenance costs and improving the environment,” says Wodder. “Plus, each dam removal project supports, on average, 10 to 12 jobs—a figure that can’t be taken lightly in this fragile economy.”
More than 700 dam removals have been recorded nationwide. 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.
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