Communities across the nation are preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This landmark legislation passed by Congress in October 1968 safeguards the free-flowing character of rivers by precluding them from being dammed, while allowing the public to enjoy them. It encourages river management and promotes public participation in protecting streams.
As part of the celebration, the National Park Service released a new video highlighting a handful of ‘Wild and Scenic’ designated rivers in the Northeast – the Farmington, Sudbury, Assabet, Concord, and Musconetcong Rivers – along with the organizations and community volunteers who work together to protect and care for these rivers.
The Musconetcong River:
Princeton Hydro has been working with MWA in the areas of river restoration, dam removal, and engineering consulting since 2003 when the efforts to remove the Gruendyke Mill Dam in Hackettstown, NJ began. To date, Princeton Hydro has worked with MWA to remove five dams on the Musconetcong River, the most recent being the Hughesville Dam.
As noted in the video, the removal of these dams, especially the Hughesville dam, was a major milestone in restoring migratory fish passage along the Musconetcong. Only a year after the completion of the dam removal, American shad returned to the “Musky” for the first time in 250 years.
“The direction the river is moving bodes well for its recovery,” said Princeton Hydro President Geoff Goll, P.E., who was interviewed in the 50th anniversary video. “This multidisciplinary approach using ecology and engineering, paired with a dynamic stakeholder partnership, lead to a successful river restoration, where native fish populations returned within a year. ”
The Farmington River:
The Upper Farmington River, designated as ‘Wild and Scenic’ in 1994, stretches 14-miles through Connecticut starting above Riverton through the New Hardford/Canton town line. The river is important for outdoor recreation and provides critical habitat for countless wildlife.
Back in 2012, Princeton Hydro worked with the FRWA and its project partners to remove the Spoonville Dam. Built in 1899 on the site of a natural 25-foot drop in the riverbed, the dam was originally a hydropower facility. The hurricanes and flood of 1955 breached the dam, opening a 45-foot gap and scattering massive dam fragments in the riverbed downstream. The remnant of the main dam persisted for decades as a 128-foot long, 25-foot high obstacle in the channel. The river poured through the breach in a steep chute that stopped American shad from proceeding further upstream to spawn.
The project was completed, from initial site investigation through engineering assessment and final design, in just six months. The dam removal helped to restore historic fish migrations in the Farmington River (including the American shad) and increase recreation opportunities.
Wild & Scenic Rivers Act:
As of December 2014 (the last designation), the National ‘Wild and Scenic’ System protects 12,734 miles of 208 rivers in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; this is a little more than one-quarter of 1% of the nation’s rivers. By comparison, more than 75,000 large dams across the country have modified at least 600,000 miles, or about 17%, of American rivers.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Act and in an effort to designate many more miles of river as ‘Wild and Scenic,’ four federal agencies and four nonprofit groups are coordinating nationwide events and outreach. Managing agencies are the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service, along with American Rivers, American Whitewater, River Network and River Management Society. Go here for more info: www.wildandscenicrivers50.us.