Just Keep Swimming

 · 
June 21, 2024
 · 
2 min read
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Dams across the United States have been in the process of being removed for over a hundred years, and for good reason. These dams are becoming dilapidated, have served their purpose, or could potentially harm the public. Additionally, dam removal will allow migratory fish to travel up tributaries to spawn.

Take the Brandywine Creek in Delaware for example. Over 250 years ago, American Shad, Hickory Shad, and Striped Bass could swim freely up streams that feed the Delaware River to spawn and reproduce, then return to the river. It was also a large food source for the Indigenous people who habited this area. Between then and now, settlers moved into the area and built dams to generate waterpower to power mills and cut off this viable food source. In the name of progress, they were then forced to move out of the area due to the food shortage.

Since 1912, the United States has seen the removal of over 2,000 dams, with Pennsylvania leading the way by removing 390 dams. Between 2022 and 2023, a total of 25 dams were removed. This trend is not limited to Pennsylvania, as other states are also taking part in this environmental restoration, reconnecting thousands of miles of streams. While other methods, such as fish ladders, have been experimented with to allow fish to swim upstream, they have proven to be less effective than the complete removal of dams.

Experts believe that dam removal will also help with high-risk flooding areas. These streams will become narrower, creating less erosion of the stream bank and restricting the flow over the bank.

The benefits of dam removal extend beyond the environmental sphere. This is exciting news for hikers, sight-seekers, and anglers, as it brings the potential to reintroduce species that haven't been seen in the area for a while, making it a thrilling prospect for nature enthusiasts. A recent example of this is the sighting of a river otter in Ridley Creek, a thrill that hadn't occurred in over a hundred years! Or, with fewer dams, you might even have the opportunity to catch a bucket list fish. Great news for Pennsylvania and our neighboring waters.

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