The Associated Press
Sunday, November 28, 2004
Catskill dam razed to restore river habitat,
Endangered mussel prompts measure
CUDDEBACKVILLE -- For the first time in nearly a century, American
shad, brook trout, and a tiny endangered mussel are able to migrate
up the fabled Neversink River past a site long blocked by a dam.
The 107-foot-wide, 6-foot-tall Cuddebackville dam, which produced
hydropower from 1915 until 1945, was bashed to bits this fall
in a $2.2 million restoration project led by the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers and The Nature Conservancy.
The removal of the dam on a Catskill river marked the first time
in New York history a dam was removed for purely invironmental
It was the latest of nearly 160 dam removals across the country
in the past five years in a growing movement to return rivers
to a free-flowing state, according to American Rivers, an environmental
group based in Washington.
There are about 77,000 dams higher than 6 feet nationwide, and
at least 7,000 in New York, according to American Rivers. Many
were built to run mills that now are long gone. Others were used
to control floods, store water supplies or create recreational
lakes. Fewer than 2,500 generate electricity.
''Over the years, derelict and obsolete dams have been removed
because of safety concerns, or because of the expense of maintaining
and upgrading them,'' said Serena McClain of American Rivers.
''But starting in 1999, we've seen a movement toward removing
dams for ecological reasons, to restore rivers.''
In 1999, the 162-year-old Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River in
Maine became the first dam ordered removed by the federal government
as a way of restoring the environment. The removal opened an upstream
stretch of the river to huge numbers of Atlantic salmon, striped
bass, alewives and other fish.
It also unleashed a flood of other dam removal projects.
''The Edwards Dam opened people's eyes to the fact that it was
economically feasible to do these projects,'' said Colin Apse,
an aquatic ecologist for The Nature Conservancy involved in the
The Cuddebackville dam was in the woods about a mile from the
highway. Now it has been removed and the glacial cobbles on the
river bottom restored to a natural state, Atlantic fish will be
able to migrate another 35 miles upstream to spawn.
Brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, alewife and eel
also will benefit from the cooler temperature and higher oxygen
level in free-flowing waters.
A tiny mussel provided the greatest impetus to restore the river.
In 1990, the federally endangered dwarf wedge mussel was discovered
in the Neversink. The dam was the upstream limit of one of the
world's largest populations of the rare mollusk.
The walnut-sized mussel, which requires very clear, pure water,
disperses itself with the help of two tiny fish -- the tessellated
darter and the mottled sculpin. The mussel lures a fish by waving
a wormlike appendage and then sprays the fish with larvae, which
hitch a ride upriver.
Now the dam is gone, the habitat for the dwarf wedge mussel and
another rare mussel, the alewife floater, has been greatly expanded,
Apse said. Trout fishing also is likely to improve.