10 years of Work on Patapsco River Culminates in Bloede Dam Removal Kickoff

September 07, 2018

NOAA, American Rivers, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and others celebrated the beginning of the most significant dam removal on the Patapsco River, which will soon be open for the first time in a century.

Partners and members of the media watch preparation of Bloede Dam for removal..JPG

Partners and members of the media watch preparation of Bloede Dam for removal.

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.

The Bloede Dam prior to its removal. Credit: American Rivers..jpg

Bloede Dam, the first barrier to fish passage on the Patapsco River, prior to its removal.

This project showcases the cooperative nature of habitat conservation and is a model for other states challenged by outdated dams and water infrastructure.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 Chief of Staff, Stu Levenbach speaks at the Bloede Dam removal celebration event..jpg

NOAA Chief of Staff, Stu Levenbach, speaks at the Bloede Dam removal event.

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.

Machinery working to prep Bloede Dam for removal..JPG

Heavy machinery working to prepare the Bloede Dam for removal.

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.

NOAA Habitat staff member, Tisa Shostik speaks with a reporter at the Bloede Dam removal celebra.jpg

NOAA Habitat team member, Tisa Shostik, talking with a media outlet.

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.

Insight

Barriers to Fish Migration

One reason fish populations struggle is that barriers prevent them from reaching the upstream habitat where they breed and grow.

fish jumping over dam