Pa. praised for removing unsafe dams

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Twenty unnecessary or unsafe dams will be removed in Pennsylvania this year, including six in the western end of the state, making the commonwealth the national leader in river restoration, according to American Rivers.

The river environmental group's annual listing of dam removals, released yesterday, said more than 150 dams have been eliminated from the commonwealth's creeks and rivers during the last decade, resulting in improved safety, water quality and migratory fish habitat.

"It is time to rethink our nation's water infrastructure," Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers, said in the release. "These dam removals are an example of how our communities can reap multiple benefits when we work with nature instead of against it."

Ms. Wodder said dismantling dams can save individuals, companies and municipalities money in the long run by improving safety, eliminating future maintenance costs and improving the riparian environment.

Among the Pennsylvania dams that have been or will be removed this year are the Boydstown Dam, Collapsible Butler Dam and Harmony Junction Dam, all on Connoquenessing Creek, Butler County; the Howell Dam, on a tributary to Little Sewickley Creek in Westmoreland County; the Service Water Dam on Mahoning Creek, Armstrong County; and the Barr Slope Reservoir Dam, on a tributary to Dixon Run in Indiana County.

The Boydstown Dam, a concrete and earthen structure 28 feet tall and 330 feet long, was built in 1896 for water supply purposes. It was owned by the Pennsylvania-American Water Co. but removed for economic and safety reasons. It's condition was rated "very poor," according to the database of the national Dam Inspection Program. American Rivers said its removal has helped improve water quality in Connoquenessing Creek.

Removal of the Harmony Junction Dam on that same creek has resulted in decreased flooding and helped restore 15 miles of creek for increased access and recreation.

The national river conservation organization has pushed for the removal of unneeded and deteriorating dams for more than a decade, and partners with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection to provide funding and technical assistance for river restoration and dam removal projects in the state.

American Rivers also works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on stream barrier removal projects that help migrating fish populations.

Don Hopey can be reached at or 412-263-1983.


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