A dam removal project in Montgomery County will have a lasting, beneficial impact on Richmond County’s waterways, biologists said.
The decrepit Troy Reservoir Dam No. 1, which stretches across Montgomery County’s Densons Creek, a tributary of the Little River, has been removed.
“Removing this dam is an opportunity to help the town of Troy further enhance Densons Creek’s natural aquatic community, in turn helping meet local economic and conservation goals,” said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Biologist Laura Fogo, who has spearheaded the project. “The removal of Troy Reservoir Dam No. 1 is part of a larger, landscape-scale effort to restore the streams of the Little River watershed.“
The Troy Reservoir Dam No. 1 reached six feet high and stretched 83 feet across the stream channel. It was built more than 50 years ago to supply water for the town, though it has long since quit serving that purpose. Currently water can flow through and beneath what remains of the dam, however during high flow water builds up behind the concrete and rock wall. The removal of the dam was done in close concert with the town of Troy, which owns the 173-acre nature preserve containing the dam site. In total, the town has protected more than 17 miles of stream corridor above and below the removal site, establishing public walking trails which connect to Uwharrie National Forest.
“The main thing is, the dams have outlived their purpose,” said Lynnette Batt, American Rivers’ associate director for river restoration. “It just sat there and was a hazard for folks. There were also six to 10 rare species of mussel that live literally nowhere else.”
The removal of the Troy Reservoir Dam No. 1, and the recent removal of a privately-owned dam nearby, come after months of work by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, American Rivers, and other partners, including local landowners. Removal of Troy Reservoir Dam No. 1 opens up three miles of stream to fish and other animals whose upstream movement was checked by the decrepit dam.
“In removing a decrepit dam, we gain a tremendous amount of habitat restoration for relatively little effort,” said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Laura Fogo.
Batt added, “These removals reflect the work of a lot of people, from private landowners to federal agencies, coming together to improve the health of these streams. It’s encouraging to see such cooperation for the good of North Carolina rivers.”
Decrepit dams can be a safety hazard for paddlers and other river users, and can prevent fish and other aquatic animals from moving up or downstream to take advantage of quality habitat.
“For larger, functioning dams, these passage issues can be addressed by the construction of fish ladders, or even elevators, that give fish, both game and non-game, an opportunity to by-pass the dam,” said Mark Cantrell, a biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “For small dams like these, that no longer serve any purpose, removal really is the best option.”
According to Batt, there are nearly 5,800 dams in the North Carolina database, and nearly double that amount exist in the state but are not accounted for. These are left over from the mill era and haven’t served a purpose for many years. Batt explained that while several dams still exist between the Troy Reservoir Dam No. 1 and Richmond County, many species will be able to move further up or downstream and as dam removal continues, the overall ecology will improve.
While American Rivers continues to add dam removal projects to their future plans, Batt said these types of projects are often contracted out and can become costly.
“I’m proud to say that the whole project was done in-house,” said Batt. “It was funded by Fish Passage Program in South Carolina.”
Batt said the project would not have been successful without Tripp Boltin of the Fish Passage Program, and Hal Jones and Ricky Campbell of U.S. Fish and Wildlife of Mississippi, who operated the excavating machines without having any dam removal experience.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.