Lithuania Hosts First-ever Dam Removal Workshop Feat. Princeton Hydro Expert

Lithuania Hosts its First-Ever
Dam Removal Workshop

Princeton Hydro’s Laura Wildman Invited to Present

History was recently made in Lithuania with the occurrence of the first-ever dam removal workshop held in the country. Experts throughout the world convened at the Ministry of Environment in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to lead discussions on a variety of topics related to dam removal and river rehabilitation.  They covered the current state of affairs regarding Lithuanian dams and showcased the Dam Removal Europe (DRE) initiative, a new effort aimed at restoring rivers in Europe.

The workshop was the brainchild of Lithuanian environmental activist Karolina Gurjazkaitė. She read about the DRE campaign and was so inspired by the initiative, she contacted DRE representatives about organizing the workshop. Her goals in organizing the first-ever dam removal workshop in Lithuania were to build awareness around the importance of river restoration, call attention to the many outdated, unmaintained, and unnecessary dams throughout Lithuania, and ultimately inspire positive changes in the way of dam removals and river rehabilitation.

“I am very excited, not only about the workshop, but also about the ‘side effects’…already created,” said Karolina. “People are gaining hopes and enthusiasm… This workshop may have really powerful outcomes!”

Karolina gathered a diverse group of workshop attendees, comprised of government officials (including the Vice-Minister of Environment of Lithuania), university professors (primarily specializing in dam safety and hydropower development), local environmental advocates and NGO volunteers, researchers, and students.

Presenters during the workshop included scientists, engineers, communication experts, planners, activists, and Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office Director and Fisheries Engineer Laura Wildman, P.E.

Presentations covered a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Policy and current situation in Europe: Pao Fernández Garrido of World Fish Migration Foundation, Spain presented on DRE findings related to policy and the current dam removal situation in Europe.

  • Research: Rachel Bowes from Karlstad University, Sweden spoke about current state of affairs with Swedish dam removal efforts and the research they are currently carrying out.

  • Book presentation: Herman Wanningen of World Fish Migration Foundation, Netherlands presented the new book, From Sea to Source 2.0, which is focused on tackling the challenges of restoring fish migration in rivers around the world and is available for free download.

  • Technical issues: Laura Wildman, PE, who has over 20 years of experience on dam removal, presented on the most important technical aspects when carrying out a barrier demolition.

On day two of the workshop, participants were invited to take part in field visits to five dam sites. Each of the five dams all presented their own unique challenges in terms of the ability to remove them. The site visits provided a deeper look into the challenges that will need to be addressed when forging ahead with a Lithuanian river restoration initiative.

The workshop proved to be instrumental in identifying key challenges and next steps in building a successful country-wide river rehabilitation initiative. One of the key takeaways from the workshop is the need for a more robust understanding of Lithuanian-specific rules and regulations that classify a dam removal project as either viable or not viable.

“Not only has there never been a dam removal workshop held in Lithuania, to date, a dam removal has never been completed in Lithuania, at least none that have been documented and none for environmental restoration reasons,” said Laura. “It’s clear that we still have a lot to explore and discover, but I am so thrilled to have been a part of this workshop. It was a very positive first step in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to watching and helping this initiative flourish.”

To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s dam removal and river restoration initiatives, go here.

 

New Book Aims to Protect and Restore Fish Migrations

Rivers are a critical natural resource and an essential element for the health and survival of billions of people and countless species. Flourishing populations of migratory fish are an important indicator of a healthy, coastally connected river and a robust aquatic ecosystem as a whole. Migratory fish help to maintain a balanced food web, support productive river systems, and provide income for people around the world.

Yet many migratory fish species are severely threatened primarily due to man-made obstacles like dams and weirs, which disrupt the natural flow of rivers and prevent fish migration. When fish can’t reach their habitat, they can’t reproduce and maintain their populations.

Photo Credit: “From Sea to Source 2.0”

A new book, titled From Sea to Source 2.0, explores the challenges that lie behind restoration of fish migration in rivers around the world and provides a practical guide to promoting the protection and restoration of fish migration. The book is a unique collaboration of over 100 international fisheries professionals and supported by river managers, governments, research institutes and NGOs including World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy. Geared toward practitioners, but also a wonderful resource for the general public, the book is comprised of inspiring stories from nearly every continent on the planet. Click here to download it for free.

“Ultimately our ambition is to contribute in a positive way to making a better world and a positive difference for migratory fish, nature and humans on local and global levels by inspiring new initiatives for and with people all around the world,” as stated on www.fromseatosource.com. “Whether the challenge is simply to increase access to spawning habitats through connectivity improvements for salmon, or to maintain the livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people dependent upon fish and fisheries in the great rivers of Asia, Africa and South America, we hoped our book would help to achieve these goals.”

Princeton Hydro’s Dam Removal Expert Laura Wildman, P.E. and Fluvial Geomorphologist Paul Woodworth are proud contributors to the book, helping to write the dam removal chapter, creating a dam removal flow chart for the book, and providing multiple photos utilized in the book. Princeton Hydro is also listed as a contributing sponsor.

“We’re so proud to be part of this incredible project with so many partners globally,” said Wildman. “We envision that this book will provide a valuable resource and inspiration for those in countries and regions where the importance of restoring riverine connectivity is newly gaining momentum. We hope it will help emphasize the importance of finding balanced and environmentally informed solutions when proposing additional utilization of public trust resources such as rivers.”

Approximately 40% of all fish species in the world reside in freshwater ecosystems, contributing economic and ecological benefits and value. It’s critical that we support efforts that aim to protect migratory fish species, reconnect rivers, sustain fish passage, and preserve free-flowing rivers through removing unnecessary dams, reconnecting floodplains, managing our water use, and managing hydropower for sustainable rivers.

Education and awareness building are key first steps in protecting rivers. From Sea to Source 2.0 seeks to inform, educate and inspire those who want to know more about how to meet the challenges of restoring fish migration in rivers around the world.  The book is regarded as a crucial resource in the ongoing fight to protect and preserve the enormous value of our waterways.

Get your free copy here.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of a dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Princeton Hydro Dam Removal Work Featured at Brazilian Workshop

As Brazil is in the midst of a dam-building boom, scientists and engineers gathered at a workshop in Brazil to discuss, “Dam Removal & Optimizing Hydro Locations to Benefit Species Diversity in Brazil.”

Laura Wildman, P.E., Water Resources and Fisheries Engineer and Director of Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office, was invited to speak at the workshop. Her presentation focused on why we remove dams in the U.S. (the key drivers), how we analyze them for removal, and what we are learning through a wide diversity of completed case studies.

“It was fascinating to discuss a topic, such as the removal of dams, right as Brazil is focusing on building more hydro capacity,” said Laura. “Hopefully it is a sign that the hydro industry in Brazil, along with all the great Brazilian fisheries researchers, are quite forward thinking and are determined to maintain their country’s rich species diversity while also enhancing their energy options.”

The workshop, hosted by CEMIG and held at UFMG, involved many universities, including our workshop host Paulo Pompeu from UFLA, Dr. Paul Kemp from University of Southhampton, Dr. Jesse O’Hanley of Kent Business School, and many others.

The gathering inspired a lot of interesting dialogue around dam removal, optimizing locations for new hydro facilities, and how to best sustain connectivity and species diversity. Laura’s presentation entitled “Dam removal in the United States” along with the other conference presentations will be available on the CEMIG website soon or check back here on the Princeton Hydro blog for presentation links.

The Restoration of Bound Brook

To the delight of fish and environmentalists alike, an important step has been made in the removal of the aging spillway of Hunters Pond Dam in Scituate and Cohasset, Massachusetts. The spillway was notched to ensure a gradual release of water from the impoundment, letting Bound Brook flow free again after being dammed for centuries.

As the first barrier upstream from the Atlantic Ocean, the dam’s removal restores 5-miles of river spawning ground and habitat for alewife, blueback herring, American eel, rainbow smelt, sea lamprey and other important species. The removal of Hunters Pond Dam also reduces the threat of dam failure.

Princeton Hydro is proud to be working on this project with T Ford Company, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many other great partners. The project is funded by grants from the Massachusetts Department of Ecological Restoration and the NOAA.

The project also includes rebuilding a culvert, removing a concrete spillway, and replacing a water main. Stay tuned for more!

The Return of the American Shad to the Musconetcong River

PHOTO/New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist Pat Hamilton holds a shad near the Warren Glen Dam

After a 250+ year absence, American shad have returned to the Musconetcong River in Hunterdon and Warren counties. This milestone in the ecological recovery of the river is the result of the removal of dams on the lower Musconetcong several years ago, followed by the removal of the Hughesville Dam in Warren County last year.

Removing the dams opened nearly six miles of the Musconetcong to migratory fish, such as American shad, that spend much of their lives in the ocean but return to rivers and their tributaries to spawn. The shad’s return is a good sign of the overall ecological health and diversity of the river.

Princeton Hydro was proud to partner with the Musconetcong Watershed Association and so many other incredible organizations who came together on the Hughesville Dam Removal project. To date, Princeton Hydro has investigated, designed and permitted five dam removals on the Musconetcong.

The next Musconetcong dam targeted for removal is the 32-foot high Warren Glen Dam, less than a mile farther upstream. It is the largest dam in the river; by comparison, the Hughesville Dam was 15-feet tall.

Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll, P.E. published this commentary piece titled, “The Return of the American Shad to the Musconetcong River:”

Update (June 15, 2017)NJDEP issued press release on the finding of American shad on the Musky. Bob Shin, NJDEP Commissioner, stated, “[t]he return of shad, a benchmark species indicative of the overall ecological health and diversity of a waterway, is an exciting milestone…. This achievement is the direct result of an ongoing partnership among state and federal agencies, nonprofit groups, and dam owners – all committed to making this beautiful waterway free-flowing again.

On June 7, 2017, Princeton Hydro celebrated along with the Musconetcong Watershed Association (and an excellent story of the MWA, human history of the river, and the efforts to preserve the history and ecology can be found here) and other project partners, the discovery of American shad on the Musconetcong River in NJ, over 250 years after they were blocked from this major tributary of the Delaware River – On September 8, 2016, then Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, held a press conference to celebrate the initial breach of the Hughesville Dam on the Musconetcong River (time lapse of removal is here). The press conference was held as the Department of the Interior via of the US Fish and Wildlife Service provided the funding to remove this obsolete structure through their Hurricane Sandy Recovery funding and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration program. In addition to the Honorable Sally Jewell, NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin, and US Army Corp of Engineers, Philadelphia District Commander Lt. Colonel Michael Bliss, were also on hand to speak about the importance of the Hughesville Dam removal and dam removal in general. To have such dignitaries at the highest levels of our Federal and State government speak at a project our firm designed was truly an honor and privilege. It was a great day to celebrate the next obsolete dam on the Musconetcong River to fall to the progress of river restoration. However, this would pale in comparison to the news we received on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, when the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife confirmed the presence of the American shad (Alosa sapidissima) above the Hughesville Dam!

Ms. Patricia Hamilton, Fisheries Biologist of NJ Fish And Wildlife, reported that they “spotted small schools of American Shad (at most 6 at a time) and captured 4 several hundred yards downstream of the Warren Glen Dam”, five miles from the confluence of the Delaware River. This is the first documentation of American shad on this river in over 250 years! So, what is the big deal you may ask.

The American shad is the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States’ salmon; it is actually a clupeid, a forage type fish closely related to herrings and sardines. Like herrings and sardines, they are a very oily fish, high in omega-3 fats, and low in contamination. It is also a fairly large clupeid, reaching three to eight pounds as adults. Like the salmon, American shad are anadromous, meaning they live the major part of their lives in the ocean and spawn up the coasts’ rivers. The American shad is not a spectacularly looking fish to say the least, and in fact, looks like a “generic” illustration of a fish, unlike the sleek and sexy salmon. It doesn’t even jump. However, this fish is a long distance and endurance swimmer, who’s migration from its hatching in rivers of the East Coast to its primary habitat in the Atlantic Ocean up in the Gulf of Maine, makes it one of the Earth’s great travelers. It can swim nearly 20,000 kilometers in its first five years of life and can dive to depths of up to 375 meters. And like all of its clupeid kindred, it is both a key prey species for many large fish and cetaceans in the Atlantic’s pelagic zone (open ocean) and an important commercial fish. But it is the existence of over-fishing, pollution and dams that had brought this species to its knees in many of the major eastern US rivers.

While the Delaware River shad and herring species have rebounded somewhat from low populations in the mid-1900s with the advent of the US Clean Water Act, they continue to struggle to regain their numbers, and in fact, there is now a moratorium on catching river herring in the Delaware River, and NJ has a moratorium on the harvesting of shad and herring on its tributaries to the Delaware River and Atlantic Ocean. As far as tributary access is concerned, the largest tributaries to the Delaware, the Schuylkill and Lehigh Rivers, are still blocked by dams to their mouths with very little efficiency of fish ladders provided; with their dams having very little success in gaining support for the removal of their blockages. So, any gains in additional spawning habitat for such anadromous species is viewed as a significant victory. The opening of the Musconetcong River to migrating fish will be a large contributor to the rebound of American shad, and other river herring species.

As one of the original 13 colonies, NJ was an integral partner in the start of the United States and early industrial revolution. It has been documented through our research during the dam removal regulatory permit application process on this waterway that the Musconetcong River has been dammed just about all the way to its confluence with the Delaware River since the mid-1700s, and likely much earlier. So, before there was anyone who understood the importance of unimpeded rivers for fish migration, this particular route was cut-off in its entirety, and then remained so for well over 250 years. So, it is understandable that there was no reason to assume that anadromous fish, such as shad, would resume the use of the river in a short period of time; however, there existed the right habitat for them, should they be afforded access…and the hope of the partners working on this river. There were doubters, to be sure, but “lo and behold”, we now know these mighty fish took advantage of an opening almost immediately.

Now, I am not stating that American shad immediately realized that the Hughesville Dam was gone and took a B-line from the Delaware River to the highest unimpeded location. First, other dams downstream of the Hughesville Dam had been removed over the past several years. These dams included the Finesville Dam (for an excellent video of the story of this dam removal, check out this video by the US Fish and Wildlife Service), removed in 2011 and the Reigelsville Dam remnants (there were two additional remnants found when the first foundation was removed) soon after the Finesville Dam was removed. So, it is likely that American Shad had started moving up the river to the base of the Hughesville Dam between 2011 and 2016. Still the response by American shad is nothing short of spectacular. For the over 250 years this species has not been able to use this river, at all, and now, within a span less than six years of dam removal activities, this fish is raring to comeback and, hopefully, spawn and increase their numbers.

And the efforts are not nearly complete for the Musconetcong River. The finding of the American shad five miles upstream from the Delaware River shows that this river can and, now, does support this fish. This generic looking fish, yet awesome product of evolution should only fuel the fire of continued restoration efforts, proof-positive that the labor and funds spent here, in this river, gets results. Such funds and labor (an staggering amount of time, blood, sweat, and tears) are required in order to get the river restoration work done. These projects have received the majority of their backing from the federal government, through grant programs, natural resource damage funds, and direct Congressional authorized funds. Without support from Washington, D.C.,, and Trenton, none of this work would be possible. And to get these funds, required work by the many team partners to prepare applications, meet with federal agencies, and educate the public through open and transparent meetings and communication. This was an impressive effort by the residents of this watershed, professionals who provided their expertise, and the state and federal employees who have dedicated their lives to this kind of work.

The Musconetcong River, with its recovering ecosystem, and its human and non-human inhabitants continue to amaze me in how we should all strive to strike balance between man and nature; and all this is being accomplished in the most densely populated state in the nation.

The finding of American shad gives me reason to cheer, and is why I do what I do. This is it, the return of a species that at one time we had no assurance would return, has returned. This is hope for us, after all.

Read more about Princeton Hydro’s river restoration and dam/barrier services on our website. Please contact us anytime if you have a project you’d like to discuss.