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Torpedo the Dams? A Key to PA River Restoration

December 20, 2010

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania is removing some key barriers to cleaner rivers. In fact, it's doing a better job than any other state in the nation, according to the group American Rivers. The barriers, in this case, are old dams. Constructed on waterways for both recreational and industrial reasons, dams can damage river health by choking off the natural currents, blocking migrating fish, and exposing still waters to sunshine that can make them too warm for the creatures that live in them.

Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy, associate director for river restoration with American Rivers, says that also isn't good for people.

"When the water is warmer, it has less dissolved oxygen, which means that it's not as healthy for the fish; and on top of that, it's not as healthy for human beings either. So, we have this whole system that's completely altered.

Hollingsworth-Segedy says that when rivers flow unobstructed, they provide a kind of moving buffet for the plants and fish that live in them.


"It provides fish habitat and allows species to migrate, not only inside the river itself, but along the bank area."

She says rivers in Pennsylvania would be better off 'dam-free.' Removing obsolete dams can improve public safety and flood protection, while boosting recreation opportunities such as fishing and paddling. She adds that there is still a lot of work to do, to restore rivers in the state...and it's a big job just to find them all.

"In Pennsylvania, there are probably somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 dams, so even if we took out a hundred a year, we're going to be at this for a long time."

American Rivers has worked with state environmental officials to identify and remove 20 dams in Pennsylvania this year. Hollingsworth-Segedy says her group also lets dam owners know about the benefits of dam removal, including not having to sink money into upkeep.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA