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Nothing Restores a River or Local Economy Like Removing a Dam


Across the United States, 69 river dams were removed from American rivers in 2020, opening 624 miles of free-flowing waterways.

The work was carried out with the guidance of American Rivers, a national nonprofit organization that works to restore rivers to their natural state.

More than 90,000 dams block rivers in the US, but while many might not think of this as a problem, the relentless repression of American rivers over the decades has created significant damage to the environment.

In addition to disturbing river ecosystems, inland marshes, and wetlands, which are important ecosystems for many birds, dammed rivers can also dry up downstream from where dams are built.

Dams have been going on for centuries in the US, as reported by GNN last year, accumulating inherited sediment and suffocating rivers. But even the most modern dams can pose great dangers to rivers and fragmenting habitats as they soak up infrastructure tax dollars.

In 2020, dams were removed in South Carolina, Indiana, Washington, Montana, New Hampshire, and 18 other states, helping connect populations of salmon species such as Chinook, coho, and rose, as well as rainbow trout, assassin and bull, Bartram’s bass, large red horse, long-nosed dace, and northern brook lamprey, the latter three of which are threatened or endangered in the US.

The removal of a dam one mile upstream from its confluence with the St. Joseph River, the Elkhart River Dam, has helped reopen a key migration route for more than 50 fish and other species leaving the St. Joseph River. .

Indian nations like Nooksack and Lummi made great contributions to the 2020 dam removal projects.

“We are salmon people. So salmon is very sacred and very important to the tribe, ”said Merle Jefferson, director of Lummi Nation’s department of natural resources. in a video.

PLUS: Salmon spawning for the first time in 80 years on the upper Columbia River

A 16-mile stretch of culturally sacred salmon habitat collapsed after a dam was built diverting the Middle Fork Nooksack River near Bellingham, Washington.

Removing that prey not only returned the salmon to their habitat, but the Lummi returned their culture. The Tulalip tribes are another group that regained their ancestral salmon habitat, this time along the Pilchuck River in Washington state, where two separate dams were completely removed.

In most cases, dams were built long ago to strengthen industry or to supply fresh water and irrigation. As technology and population densities have changed over the decades, a surprising number of dams are not powering or helping anything, and instead act as irrelevant fiscal leeches.

RELATED: Volunteers shed 9,200 pounds. trash from one of the dirtiest rivers in America.

Reopening the rivers, as American Rivers has shown, also provides some economic opportunities for communities by increasing recreational fishing and boating, as well as replenishing local fish stocks that can be sold.

Featured Image: David Seibold, CC license

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