Tag Archives: dam removal

Secret lives of fish

April 21 is World Fish Migration Day, a day to celebrate the importance of healthy, open rivers and the migratory fish that rely on them.

Many fish are mighty migrators!  Every spring and fall, millions of fish around the world are migrating between the oceans and our coastal rivers to produce new generations of fish. Millions more live in freshwater all year and are also on the move, some swimming 2,000 miles to spawn, feed and grow.

Along the way, migratory fish encounter multiple obstacles such as dams and culverts, which prevent them from migrating out to the ocean or migrating back upstream to spawn and reproduce. And this has contributed to a decline in fish populations worldwide. World Fish Migration Day is an opportunity to raise awareness on these issues, and share resources for restoring fish passage. Through our national fish habitat partnerships, and with States, Tribes, watershed associations and many private landowners, the Service works to remove or modify these obstacles so fish can move freely.

Since 2009, the Service and partners have removed or replaced more than 507 barriers to fish passage from Maine to West Virginia, reconnecting more than 4,020 miles of rivers and streams and 19,300 acres of wetlands.

Many of the fish species that benefit are anadromous, meaning they were born in freshwater, migrate out to the sea as young juveniles and then return to freshwater to spawn. Much of their lives are spent in the ocean, where they may be a valuable commercial fish, or become food for other commercial fish. Resident freshwater fishes, such as brook trout, lake sturgeon and the American paddlefish, also benefit from improved fish passage. And fish are not the only winners. Every mile of river restored contributes more than $500,000 in social and economic benefits to people and communities. Additionally, removing dams to increase fish passage helps protect communities from flooding and enhances recreational opportunities for paddlers. Learn more about some of this inspiring work here.

Lake Champlain’s landlocked Atlantic salmon returned to the Boquet River to spawn. (Biologist Zach Eisenhower holding fish.)

You can help and have fun, too, with this Flat Fish Migration Activity. Show your support for World Fish Migration Day and keep rivers healthy and flowing free. Find an event near you at WFMD!

Of Herring and Humans

(Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program)

Click image for full story

Update 4/19/18: For the first time in 200 years, a river herring has made it to Lake Sabbatia.

A river herring is captured by a remote camera at the Lake Sabbatia fish ladder in April 2018. Credit: MA Division of Marine Fisheries

If you’d been following the national news in October 2005, you might have heard about the Whittenton Dam crisis. After days of rain, the obsolete dam on the Mill River threatened to fail and flood homes and businesses in downtown Taunton, Mass.

Eventually, the rain stopped and the danger passed, but the crisis cost more than $1.5 million. The event highlighted the dangers of aging, unmaintained dams, and it spurred change.

“The near-failure of Whittenton Dam in 2005 really brought home the risk of aging dams for New Englanders,” notes Cathy Bozek, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s fish passage coordinator for the Northeast. “The event led to improved dam safety regulations in Massachusetts and, eventually, a funding source for removing or repairing dams in the state.”

In Taunton, the crisis energized a nascent effort to restore the Mill River by removing unsafe and obsolete dams, thus opening 30 miles of stream and 400 acres of lakes and ponds to migratory fish, including river herring.

Once so abundant their spring migrations turned rivers silver, herring populations had plummeted due to overfishing and dams that blocked the way to their spawning grounds. The decline affected myriad marine animals that prey on the species and prompted a statewide ban on harvesting river herring.

42-TNC Dam Removal Tauton_MG_5872

Construction workers excavate the site at West Britannia. (Credit: Lauren Owens Lambert)

In January 2018, the Service and its partners, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and The Nature Conservancy, removed the West Britannia Dam. The work was supported by funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience.

With the dam gone, river herring can now swim from Narragansett Bay all the way to their historical spawning grounds above Lake Sabbatia, and Taunton residents can breathe easy knowing that events like the Whittenton Dam crisis are in the past.

It’s a new day for humans and herring.

Read the whole story here.


Since 2009, the Service and partners have removed or replaced more than 507 barriers to fish passage from Maine to West Virginia, reconnecting more than 4,020 miles of rivers and streams and 19,300 acres of wetlands. While some of this work has been supported by federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery, partners across the Northeast have matched the Service’s contribution at nearly 5 to 1, contributing $56.1 million to the Service’s $12.5 million to restore aquatic connectivity for wildlife and protect communities.

Time Lapse: Dam Removed at Weston Mill

Watch this dam be chipped away before your eyes…

Aaaand it’s gone! Thanks to a close collaboration between the Service’s New Jersey Field Office, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, and other partners, the obsolete Weston Mill Dam was removed from the Millstone River in 2017.

“Dams such as the Weston Mill often present a threat to kayakers and canoers, and cause stagnant stretches of water that don’t hold enough oxygen for fish,” said Melissa Foster, senior fish and wildlife biologist at the field office. “With it gone, we’ve opened 4.5 miles of the Millstone River that had been blocked to migrating fish, such as American shad and river herring, for centuries.”

Weston Mill is the latest in a series of dams to be removed as part of a multi-partner effort to enhance ecological health and recreational opportunities in New Jersey’s Raritan River Basin. Funds for the dam’s removal were provided as partial compensation for natural resource damages caused by chemical releases at the American Cyanamid Superfund Site in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey.

Staff from the New Jersey Field Office’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration program worked closely with co-trustees NOAA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to secure the settlement. The remaining funds will be used for other

Check out the time lapse video of the project above, and watch a drone video about the river below!

(Video Courtesy of Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association)