Removal of Oakland Dam begins, with benefits for public safety, health of Susquehanna River

Published 7/25/2023  |  American Rivers

PRESS RELEASE

Contact:

  • Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy, American Rivers, 412-680-2255
  • Amy Souers Kober, American Rivers, 503-708-1145

 

Susquehanna, PA– In a major step forward for public safety and river health, demolition of Oakland Dam on the Susquehanna River begins today. The project is the largest dam removal to date in Pennsylvania.

Oakland Dam, a dangerous and obsolete former hydropower dam, is 755 ft long and 16 ft high. Removal will eliminate a severe safety hazard at #350 on the North Branch Susquehanna River Water Trail, eliminating the need for water trail users to portage around this barrier. The project will also reconnect 250 miles of aquatic habitat for sportfish, iconic freshwater mussels, and other critical fish and wildlife.

Project partners include American Rivers, the Boroughs of Susquehanna and Oakland, Endless Mountains Heritage Region, Upper Susquehanna Coalition via Tioga County Soil & Water Conservation District, PA Department of Environmental Protection, PA Fish & Boat Commission, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. This river restoration project is funded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PA Department of Community & Economic Development, River Bounty, and Susquehanna County.

Oakland Dam once provided electricity to Barnes Kasson Hospital and to Susquehanna Depot, a major railroad hub for the northeastern US, located on the banks of the Susquehanna River in what is now Ira Reynolds Riverfront Park. Hydropower generation was abandoned in the early 2000’s due to an accidental breach in the center of the dam.

“Susquehanna Borough is extremely happy this project has come to the point of work beginning on July 25th, 2023. Boaters will be able to utilize this section of the North Branch of the Susquehanna River safely. A big thank you to all for making this project happen,” said Roy Williams, President of Susquehanna Borough.

Valerie Senese, President of Oakland Borough Council said, “I am thrilled to celebrate the inspiring display of cooperation and progress between Oakland Borough and Susquehanna Depot Borough in our joint effort towards ensuring the safety, environmental sustainability, and economic growth of both of our communities. The breached dam, which has been a longstanding concern for both towns, will soon undergo demolition and removal thanks to the collaborative efforts of American Rivers and Beran Environmental Services.”

“Rivers are essential to our health and the health of the natural world. Removing a dam is the fastest, most efficient way to bring a river back to life,” said Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of American Rivers.  “We applaud our partners for their dedication to restoring the Susquehanna River and we are thrilled to watch the revival and healing of this vital waterway.”

Caution tape and construction fencing will be installed in Ira Reynolds Riverfront Park to indicate areas that are unsafe for the public during dam removal construction activities. Visitors to the park should observe these safety markings and stay out of the construction zone. Boaters should observe the warning signs and buoys, and Water Trail users should avoid the construction zone during the construction period by taking out at the Exchange St Access (#351 on the Water Trail map) and portaging around the construction zone to put back in the river at #348 PFBC Great Bend Access.

More than 2,000 dams have been removed across the United States. Dam removal is a proven tool to restore river health, improve public safety, revitalize fish and wildlife populations, safeguard cultural values, and reconnect communities to their rivers. River restoration also benefits the economy: every $1 million invested in restoring watersheds generates 16 jobs and up to $2.5 million in economic benefits. Pennsylvania has been a leader in dam removal and river restoration, removing more dams than any other state with benefits for communities, the economy, and environment.

“There are tens of thousands of unsafe, outdated dams across our country. The removal of Oakland Dam is a great example of the action we need to see in more communities nationwide, improving public safety and river health. We urge Congress and the Biden administration to continue funding and prioritizing these critical river restoration efforts,” said Kiernan.

ABOUT AMERICAN RIVERS 

American Rivers is championing a national effort to protect and restore all rivers, from remote mountain streams to urban waterways. Healthy rivers provide people and nature with clean, abundant water and natural habitat. For 50 years, American Rivers staff, supporters, and partners have shared a common belief: Life Depends on Rivers. For more information, please visit AMERICANRIVERS.ORG.

This first appeared at americanrivers.org.

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