65 Dams Removed to Restore Rivers in 2012

Removal of the Roberts Street Dam, Raritan River, New Jersey

From Amethyst Brook in Massachusetts to Wychus Creek in Oregon, communities in 19 states restored 400 miles of rivers and streams by removing 65 dams in 2012. American Rivers announced the annual dam removal list today, bring the total for U.S. dam removals up to nearly 1,100.

Last year, outdated or unsafe dams came out of rivers in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

The state with the most dams removed in 2012 was Pennsylvania (13 dams removed) followed by Massachusetts (9) and Oregon (8).

Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers noted that this announcement isn’t just about the numbers.

“The projects on this list represent more than just data points. They illustrate the power of community,” he said. “Behind many of these projects are stories of dam owners kept awake at night wondering if their dam will survive the next storm, or of local watershed groups struggling to find funding in this tough economy to restore their river and fisheries.”

There are hundreds of thousands of dams blocking rivers across the U.S. While many serve useful purposes, others are obsolete or abandoned. These outdated dams are barriers to migrating fish and limit river recreation opportunities like canoeing and fishing. Dams can create drowning hazards for swimmers, anglers and boaters, and deteriorating dams threaten the safety of downstream communities.

The benefits of dam removal include restoring river health and clean water, revitalizing fish and wildlife, improving public safety and recreation, and enhancing local economies.

One of the most high-profile river restoration projects of 2012 continues on Maine’s Penobscot River. The 1,000 foot wide Great Works Dam came down during the summer of 2012, kicking off the historic Penobscot River Restoration Project. The effort is reviving native sea-run fish populations and cultural traditions and creating economic and recreational opportunities, while maintaining existing hydropower production along the largest river within Maine.

The project, led by American Rivers and multiple partners including the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, continues with the 2013-2014 removal of Veazie Dam and fish passage improvements at other dams, including a bypass at Howland Dam. Ultimately, the project will significantly restore access to 1,000 miles of habitat for Atlantic salmon and numerous additional fish species.



Meet the Author
Amy Kober is the senior communications director for American Rivers, a national non-profit river conservation organization. She lives in Portland, OR.