Ward’s Mill Dam on the Watauga River in NC was removed in 2021 after the owners chose not to renew the license for power generation and removed the dam with the assistance of three nonprofits; American Rivers, Mountain True and Blue Ridge RC&D. The dam, constructed by the owner’s father in 1964 to replace a wood dam in the same location, was used to power a sawmill, a grain mill and, ultimately, to provide power. By the time the last license expired in 2016, it was clear that the previous functions of the dam were no longer viable. The owners wanted the dam removed to restore the river, allowing the free flowing river to provide improved habitat to wildlife and safer recreation.
Through the removal of the Great Works (2012) and Veazie (2013) dams, along with installation of a fish bypass at Howland Dam (2016) on the Penobscot River in Maine, Atlantic salmon and other sea-run fish now have access to nearly 2,000 miles of spawning and rearing habitat. The Penobscot River Restoration Project has allowed the river to return to a more natural state and renewed the sense of pride in communities who use the river.