Smethport Dam to be Removed to Restore Tributary of Wild and Scenic Allegheny River

Smethport Web — by American Rivers

The Smethport Dam, located on Blacksmith Run west of Smethport, Pennsylvania, will be removed next week to improve public safety and fish passage and to restore a tributary of the Wild and Scenic Allegheny River.

American Rivers funded the design phase of this project in 2005 through a $20,000 award financed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Growing Greener award. The actual removal of the dam is funded by the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

Blacksmith Run, a tributary to the Wild and Scenic Allegheny River, is a cold water fishery that supports a population of wild brook trout. This project will restore nearly two miles of free-flowing stream, making important upstream breeding grounds more accessible. The Wild and Scenic Allegheny River flows through forested valleys and rural landscapes rich with history and culture. The river is popular for canoeing and other recreation.

The 20 foot high, 375 foot long dam was originally built in 1881 for water supply but is no longer needed. The dam has been labeled a high-hazard structure, meaning that it would result in loss of life and significant property damage if it failed.

“By removing this obsolete dam we are removing a community liability and creating a community asset-a healthy, thriving river,” said Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy of American Rivers. “When a river is returned to health, it can benefit a community by supplying clean water, fish, flood protection, and new recreation and economic opportunities.”

“Many of the functional values of rivers and streams are directly associated with the characteristics of free flowing water. Rivers and streams also act as important highways for many aquatic organisms, allowing them to efficiently access various instream habitats that are critical to their health and well being,” said Larry Miller with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mid-Atlantic Fishery Resources Office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“Removal of the Smethport Dam will restore many functional values of this reach of the Blacksmith Run, and once again provide an open highway for aquatic life”, Miller said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pleased to be a part of this cooperative effort to restore the free flowing stream values to this reach of Blacksmith Run.”

Pennsylvania leads the nation in dam removal projects and six dams have already been removed in Pennsylvania this year. American Rivers works across the country to remove outdated dams and other stream barriers. The organization’s expertise and advocacy have contributed to the removal of more than 200 dams nationwide.

Removing an obsolete, harmful dam can help a community by improving public safety, reducing flood damage, saving money, increasing economic opportunities, restoring overall river health, improving water quality, and boosting community resiliency to climate change.