Over 2 million small dams block the life-preserving passage of migratory fish in U.S. streams and rivers. Dams provide numerous benefits for modern society, but they also contribute to the overall degradation occurring in estuaries, deltas, and river environments. With a life expectancy of about 50 years, scores of dams have outlived their usefulness–dilapidated and decrepit they have become a safety hazard and liability risk to communities. Meanwhile, these dams and aging culverts continue to block fish from their natal spawning grounds.
Many communities and private landowners want to remove dams they own, but often lack the resources to do so. The Open Rivers Initiative (ORI) is designed to help where funding is an issue. By providing grants to help remove these derelict barriers, the ORI aims to initiate an environmental and economic renewal in local communities.
What’s at Stake:
Many of these barriers over the years have caused the loss and degradation of spawning habitat for anadromous fish. In addition to limited returns they have further been an impediment to the limited numbers of smolt as they make their way back to the ocean through these same barriers causing higher mortality in young of the year. With over 2 million small dams and barriers in place across the country, causing fewer and fewer returning fish to these streams, the loss of recreational fly fishing and sportfishing is and has been real.
Projects to date removing obsolete low head dams and other blockages has opened hundreds of miles of vitally important habitat to fish that rely on migrating through rivers to spawn. Dam removal has boosted local economies with dramatically improved recreational fishing opportunities. By coming forth with a new funding source to remove more dams and barriers, NOAA has responded to one of the most important fisheries management problems in the United States.
What can you do?
Open Rivers Initiative was established to help augment the removal of these structures and barriers to help restore the natural habitat needed to gain a foot hold for returning fish stocks across the country. Support and education on this critical initiative will help to maintain or increase funding for the program in the future, and ensure that vitally important habitat is restored to fish that rely on migrating upriver to spawn.
We at AFFTA will be looking at the process of implementation and funding of projects under these programs and will be contacting you to gain support for the ORI. Alternatively, if you have a major impediment that fits this criteria contact us and we will help you get this considered as a project of your own.
To read more about the Open Rivers Initiative go to:
To read more about the introduction of this historic initiative go to TRCP at: