The Pawcatuck River will have one less dam along its river in the near future. The Nature Conservancy has filed a wetlands permit application in Rhode Island to remove the White Rock Dam beginning this summer.
Half of the White Rock Dam along the Pawcatuck River is in Connecticut, so the Nature Conservancy will file a wetlands permit application in that state, too. The cement dam is six feet tall and 106 feet wide. Scott Comings, the associate director of the organization's Rhode Island chapter, said the dam has interrupted the river’s natural flow and limited the ability for fish to migrate for decades.
“Based on the conditions, it looked like about 80 to 85 percent of the fish were unable to swim up this canal, so essentially if you had 100 fish swimming up, 85 of them didn't make it.”
Comings said removing the dam would improve fish migration and the river’s connection to the ocean, and prevent flood problems during storms.
“I think a lot of times there's a misconception that dams can actually help with flooding,” said Comings. “In this case, that didn't happen. It actually made the situation worse.”
Many dam removals to restore rivers have already taken place across the country. Scientists recently published a handful of peer-reviewed studies tracking the impact of the country’s largest dam removal in the state of Washington. That dam removal has added new habitats and rebuilt the area's estuary and coast.
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