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Number of the Month: 1500 Dams

by | Sep 11, 2017 | Ecology, Law & Policy | 0 comments

Based on the experience of her home state of Washington, Pace student Rowan Lanning questioned how many streams blocked by dams in New York State can be restored. Her research brought her to the Wynants Kill in Troy, NY, where the state removed an 85 year-old dam, one of more than 1500 on Hudson River tributaries. Immediately following the dam’s removal in May 2016, thousands of alewife rushed upstream to exercise their ancient spawning rite. 

Rowan proposes that the state implement a “Deadbeat Dams Act” to study dams that prevent state waterways from fulfilling their full ecological function, and fund the removal of those that have outlived their original purpose. The success of the Wynant’s Kill effort is evidence she is onto something. More from Rowan in a future post, in the meantime, Riverkeeper picks up the the story:  

The project – a collaborative effort by Riverkeeper, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the City of Troy – is the first of its kind in the Hudson River estuary. It signals the potential for many more such projects under a new state initiative.

“The restoration of historic spawning habitat is an important component of DEC’s river herring fisheries management plan,” Acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “This barrier mitigation project is the first of its kind on a tributary of the Hudson River estuary and will also help reduce localized flooding and improve water quality.”

River herring are one of the most important species which return to the Hudson from the Atlantic to spawn. Since the 1960s, river herring populations up and down the Atlantic Coast have significantly declined due to overharvest and the loss of spawning habitat. Federal and state biologists prioritize the restoration of this habitat as one of the best ways to encourage herring stocks to recover from current historic lows.

Following the removal of a metal barrier May 4 by the City of Troy, the DEC observed hundreds of alewives, a species of herring, entering the stream. American eel, white sucker, yellow perch and other fish have also gained access to the Wynants Kill.

The dam removal was funded by the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) through a Hudson River Estuary Program Grant for “Tributary Restoration and Resiliency,” awarded to the City of Troy in January of this year.

More from Riverkeeper at this link.