This week, NOAA and partners working to remove barriers to fish passage on the Patapsco River in Maryland came together to see early stages of the removal of the Bloede Dam. It’s the first barrier fish encounter when making their way up from the Chesapeake Bay to spawn.
More than a decade in the making, the dam’s removal is one of the largest and most complicated in NOAA’s history. The project is one major piece in a watershed-scale restoration effort resulting in removal of three dams on the Patapsco River mainstem.
This project showcases the cooperative nature of habitat conservation and is a model for other states challenged by outdated dams and water infrastructure. It is an excellent example of using public-private partnerships and collaboration among all levels of government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector to accomplish ambitious conservation and public safety goals.
NOAA invested almost $9 million from multiple funding sources for the Bloede Dam removal, including the Community-based Restoration, and Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration programs. The remainder of funding came from partners like the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Coca Cola Foundation, Keurig Green Mountain, and others.
Collaborative partnerships on all habitat conservation projects are key to successful outcomes. To date, NOAA’s restoration program has worked with more than 300 partners on dam removal projects in 22 states.
Removal of derelict dams like Bloede restore rivers to their natural processes and help eliminate safety hazards from surrounding communities. Some estimates show there are more than 90,000 dams around the U.S.; many of them are obsolete, block waterways, and are abandoned or dangerous. Working with scientists and communities to identify priority opportunities, NOAA has removed 135 dams though our various habitat restoration programs.
When complete, river herring, shad, American eel, and other migratory species will have a free flowing natural river and a major safety hazard will be eliminated within the Patapsco Valley State Park.
Other NOAA supported work on the Patapsco River includes removal of two of the river’s five major dams—the Union Dam and Simkins Dam—which were removed in 2009 and 2010. Following the removal of Bloede, the Daniels Dam upstream will be the only remaining dam on the mainstem. Liberty Dam, farther upstream on the north branch of the Patapsco, impounds the water supply for the City of Baltimore in the Liberty Reservoir and is not a candidate for removal.