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With Removal of Bloede Dam Complete, Patapsco River Flows More Freely

August 02, 2019

NOAA, American Rivers, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and other partners celebrate the completion of one of the most significant dam removal projects in the Mid-Atlantic, more than a decade in the making.

bloede-removal-site_credit-stephen-heverly_750x500.jpg A free-flowing Patapsco River provides opportunities for visitors to fish, swim, and enjoy the river. (Photo: Stephen Heverly)

After more than 10 years of planning and 18 months of construction, the effort to remove Bloede Dam from the Patapsco River is complete. A significant portion of the Patapsco River can now flow freely. This provides spawning habitat for important fish species and recreational opportunities for surrounding communities. 

For more than a century, Bloede Dam served as the first barrier fish encountered when migrating up from the Chesapeake Bay to spawn. Now, migratory species like river herring, shad, and American eel have access to miles of free-flowing, natural habitat. 

A group of river herring swim along a rocky stream bed

River herring swim in the Patapsco River. (Photo: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center)

The dam’s removal also benefits local communities by improving public safety and by opening the river to recreational opportunities like fishing, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. The derelict, concrete dam once threatened public safety—there have been at least nine dam-related deaths since the 1980s. Visitors can now safely enjoy a range of outdoor activities.

NOAA invested almost $9 million for the Bloede Dam removal. Funding sources included the Community-based Restoration Program and Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program. Additional funding came from partners including:

  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Coca Cola Foundation.
  • Keurig-Green Mountain. 
Screen Shot of Bloede Dam Blast Video 3x2 Elevate Media Inc.png

Explosives detonate to breach Bloede Dam on the Patapsco River. (Photo: Elevate Media, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources)

The removal of Bloede Dam is a major piece of a watershed-scale restoration effort. It will remove barriers to fish passage and restore habitat in the mainstem Patapsco River. Other NOAA-supported work on the Patapsco River includes the removal of Union Dam and Simkins Dam in 2010. 

Removing dams like Bloede restores rivers to their natural processes and helps eliminate safety hazards. Some estimates show there are more than 90,000 dams across the United States. Many of them are obsolete, block waterways, and are abandoned or dangerous. Working with scientists and communities to identify priority opportunities, NOAA’s Restoration Center has removed 135 dams nationwide through our various habitat restoration programs.

Barriers to Fish Migration

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