News and Observer paddles new Neuse

It was a special pleasure to be here in Louisville, Kentucky for the 2018 National Mitigation and Environmental Banking Conference as the Raleigh News and Observer published an article about a recent paddle we took with the newspaper along the newly restored Neuse River.

Tomorrow at 2:00 I give a presentation of the project to our peers from around the country. So in the same week this wonderful project is receiving recognition in its hometown as a new eco-asset, it is being recognized as a significant national development in environmental public policy.

According to senior government officials here in Louisville, the role of dam removal for mitigation will be further emphasized in coming weeks based on the North Carolina efforts. Apparently, the chief regulator of mitigation, the Corps of Engineers, has drafted a national “Regulatory Guidance Letter,” formally authorizing and explicitly encouraging dam removal for mitigation.

It is good to know that Restoration Systems’ three dam removal projects — the only in the country for stream mitigation —  may soon have some company in other states. It is about time. Mitigation and dam removal are wonderful, positive endeavors and deserve to be inextricably linked in the public mind and environmental policy.

‘We’re going to have a different river.’ Without Milburnie Dam, the Neuse comes alive.

E&E News on Milburnie and Dam Removal for Mitigation

Clean Water Act may offer ‘magic key’ for dam removal
Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E News reporter
Published: Monday, December 11, 2017


An environmental mitigation firm, Restoration Systems, tearing down the Milburnie Dam on the Neuse River outside Raleigh, N.C. The company will turn a profit on the credits it sells from the removal, and advocates say their model could fund dam removals across the country.


When environmentalists press for the removal of river-choking old dams, George Howard can smell the money.

Howard’s company is tearing down the Milburnie Dam on the Neuse River outside Raleigh, N.C. The 15-foot impoundment stretches 625 feet across the river, blocking fish runs and creating a deadly hydraulic trap that’s drowned 15 swimmers.

Milburnie is Howard’s third North Carolina dam removal. As with the other two, he will turn a profit using a tool called mitigation banking.
“This could create a long-term mechanism that could slowly drive dam removals across the country that cannot be funded now,” he said in an interview.

Howard’s company, Restoration Systems, capitalizes on provisions in the Clean Water Act that aim for “no net loss” of wetlands and streams by requiring anyone wanting to destroy riverbed, marshes, bogs or swamps to offset the damage by creating and restoring habitat elsewhere.

Howard was among the first to recognize dam removals make good mitigation banks. He does restoration up front then sells credits to developers or highway builders who need Clean Water Act permits.

Almost 250 miles of the Neuse River will be dam-free after Milburnie is torn down in the next few months. The only remaining impoundment will be Falls Lake Dam upstream, whose reservoir holds most of Raleigh’s water supply. It’s not going anywhere.

The Milburnie removal will directly revive 6 miles of the Neuse. North Carolina will likely buy that mitigation to offset the expansion of the state capital’s outer-loop highway, Howard said.

He views his work as the future of environmentalism.

“Ultimately, we can’t pay to fix everything we screwed up, and we can’t stop everything in the future,” he said. “The best we can do is leverage what is going to occur — it’s unavoidable. Leverage the inevitability of well-regulated development to do the restoration that we need to do.”

It’s a philosophy that others — including some environmentalists — are beginning to appreciate for dam removals.

The Nature Conservancy recently concluded in a white paper that removing dams and culverts provide more successful mitigation than other efforts.

“If you remove a dam, you realize a lot of benefits for people and nature, and those benefits are usually enduring and sustainable,” said Jessica Wilkinson, an author of the report. “Dam removals — improving connectivity — can be and should be an appropriate method” for mitigation.

To some, mitigation represents a silver bullet for financing dam removals.

Public and private investments in compensatory mitigation is “conservatively” estimated at $3.8 billion annually, according to a widely cited 2015 paper on the “restoration economy” by University of North Carolina professor Todd BenDor. Some in the industry estimate that figure is now as high as $5 billion.

“Conceptually, it’s a great idea,” said Steven Stockton, former director of civil works and dam safety officer for the Army Corps of Engineers.

But Stockton pointed out the obstacles, the biggest being that someone’s got to foot the bill for mitigation that typically must take place in the same watershed as the development. Another is that mitigation banking has never had broad political support needed to make it a Clean Water Act fixture.

Nonetheless the number of for-profit dam removals is growing. Serena McClain of American Rivers counts about two dozen dam removals for mitigation and nine others under consideration.

Annapolis, Md.-based GreenVest LLC, another mitigation firm, has been behind removals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

“It should be considered more often,” said Doug Lashley, GreenVest’s CEO.

Dam removal for mitigation also appears to be a rare example of environmental work that has bipartisan appeal.

Greens see rivers restored. Republicans see a market-driven solution, sort of akin to the acid rain cap-and-trade Clean Air Act program.

“In a way, this is a Rosetta stone,” said Mike Wicker of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in North Carolina. “Biologists like me see the strong environmental uplift. And it’s a mechanism for guys in the private sector to make some money.”

Howard encapsulates that dynamic.

The 51-year-old has worked for two North Carolina Republican senators, Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth. In the mid 1990s, Howard spearheaded unsuccessful legislation from Faircloth, who sat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, to deregulate wetlands.

But Howard’s no fan of the Trump administration’s efforts to rescind the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule — also known as Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS — which defines what marshes, streams and wetlands qualify for federal protections.

He calls the current administration “regulatory barbarians.”

“Our business depends on well-regulated environments,” he said.

Howard sensed an opportunity in the then-fledgling mitigation banking industry while working on the wetlands bill. He returned to North Carolina and launched Restoration Systems.

“It was a dramatic departure from my career,” he said. “I went from wearing Brooks Brothers suits to Carhartt pants in 90 days.”

So far, all dam removals for mitigation have occurred in the East. But many, like Howard, see potential across the country.

“The East is more obvious because the rivers are smaller, the dams are smaller and they are all really obsolete,” said former Interior Secretary and Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt (D). “But there is plenty of work out here, too.”

If it’s successful, Fish and Wildlife’s Wicker believes the removal of the century-old Milburnie Dam will become a model.

“Milburnie is right on the edge of Raleigh,” he said. “That’s what the system is waiting for — to see if this will work for one of these contentious dams.”


Neuse River dams. The Neuse River, North Carolina’s longest, has seen a series of dam removals since the late 1990s. After the Milburnie Dam is removed, nearly 250 miles of the river will flow unimpeded. Claudine Hellmuth/E&E News

The Neuse River rises in central North Carolina’s rocky Piedmont region, winds about 275 miles east, past Raleigh, before becoming the nation’s widest river — 6 miles across — as it drains into Pamlico Sound.

It is the state’s longest river and home to several dams that generated power for paper and corn mills, Raleigh’s street cars and various other purposes. Some of the dams stretch back two centuries, and almost all of them are useless now, leading to a spree of removal projects.

In 1998, Interior Secretary Babbitt visited the area to celebrate the removal of Quaker Neck Dam near Goldsboro. Though only 17-feet tall, the impoundment effectively cut the Neuse in half for fish when it was built in 1952. Obliterating it restored about 78 miles of the Neuse main stem to migratory fish like shad and striped bass, as well as some 900 miles of its tributaries.

The same year, the nearby Cherry Hospital Dam was also taken out. Rains Mill Dam, upstream on a tributary, came out the following year.

Mike Wicker. Photo credit: Wicker/Special to E&E News

Around that time, North Carolina launched a Dam Removal Task Force comprising state and federal agencies.

Each agency examined the state’s more than 5,600 dams and evaluated them based on various priorities — ecology, public safety, transportation and others.

Dams were given numerical values. In 2002, the state released a top 10 list of dams that should be taken out.

During that process, Wicker, the veteran FWS biologist, had an idea. What if dam removal could be used for compensatory mitigation? North Carolina, and particularly the Raleigh area, were growing rapidly, spawning development that was heavily affecting streams and wetlands.

Wicker thought dam removals would have a more lasting impact than traditional mitigation measures, which he characterized as “hard engineering” that generate an artificial landscape requiring perpetual maintenance.

“Generally with mitigation, the environment sort of gets the short end of the stick,” Wicker said.

Wicker thought using dam removals for compensatory mitigation could be a “magic key.”

“I thought this technique would be a way of really getting some uplift, not only adequate mitigation, but some bonuses,” he said.

The concept grabbed Howard’s attention. Seven of the top 10 dams on the state list have since been removed. In total, 30 dams in North Carolina have been torn down, including eight in 2016 alone, according to data from American Rivers.

Howard’s Restoration System tore down two of the Top 10: Lowell Dam in a tributary of the Neuse and Carbonton Dam on the Deep River in 2005.

Construction crews work to dismantle Milburnie dam. Photo credit: Restoration Systems

The state and cities bought the mitigation credits generated by both removals, paying Howard’s company $4.8 million for the credits from Lowell’s removal, and $12 million for those from Carbonton.

Howard said it appeared that the idea would catch on then. He has been working to remove the privately owned Milburnie Dam, the last small dam on the Neuse River and another on the state’s Top 10 list, since 2001. His company will ultimately spend more than $2 million tearing it down.

“We had great hopes for it in the mid-2000s when we took out the first two,” he said. “The agencies have been slow to catch up.”

‘This should be a win-win’

That doesn’t mean U.S. EPA and the Army Corps haven’t tried.

The Army Corps’ Wilmington District and EPA Region 4 have sought to be leaders on the issue. Beginning in 2003, the agencies have twice issued guidance “to provide a consistent method to determine mitigation credit derived from appropriate dam removal projects across North Carolina.”

“We all got together back in the early 2000s because the development pressure was so great here,” said Jean Gibby, chief of the Army Corps’ Raleigh regulatory office.

Then, in April 2008, the Obama administration issued a regulation that stated a clear preference for mitigation banking over other types of compensatory mitigation under the Clean Water Act.

A prime motivation for the rule was the main form of mitigation previously — in which the permit seeker does some sort of project on their own — wasn’t working, said Royal Gardner, a law professor at Stetson University who has written extensively on the Clean Water Act.

“It was clear that permittee responsible mitigation was not successful,” Gardner said.

Proponents of mitigation banking contend there are advantages both for the permit seeker and the regulator. For the developer, it is easier to buy credits from a bank than undertake an entire mitigation project. The credits also release them from the liability of making sure the project is successful over the long term. For the Milburnie Dam bank, for example, Howard’s company will monitor the site for seven years.

At the same time, the regulator knows the credits are bought from a bank that it has evaluated and deemed worthy.

It’s the type of regulation that pro-business conservatives support.

“This is an area with the proper amount of policy and guidance from the federal government pushed down districts” could lead to “a lot of dams being removed and providing compensatory mitigation,” said Murray Starkel of Ecological Service Partners, another mitigation banker who sees potential for dam removal banks in the Pacific Northwest.

“This should be a win-win.”

The Obama administration rule boosted the mitigation bank market for stream restoration, according to the Nature Conservancy white paper. The number of mitigation banks across the country providing stream mitigation credits jumped from 141 in 2008 to more than 300 in 2014.

Both 2008 efforts have since encountered challenges.

The North Carolina guidance has been repeatedly withdrawn, most recently in 2011, in part due to resistance from traditional stream mitigation companies.

“It scared people because it was precedent-setting and different,” Wicker saidThe Army Corps’ Gibby said the document was rescinded largely due to technical issues, including difficulty reconciling it with the national mitigation rule.

“Like anything, when you first do something you are going to find that it’s not perfect the first time,” she said.

That Obama-era rule is also now in jeopardy; the Trump administration has listed it as one it will re-evaluate and possibly repeal.

Mitigation bankers also say regulators approve projects much more quickly than banks.

‘Neither side agrees with it’

The 15-foot high, 625-foot wide Milburnie Dam before it was removed. More than 100 years old, the dam creates dangerous hydraulic suction and has drowned 15 swimmers.

Overall, mitigation banking has never had a large contingent of political backers in either party, Howard said.

Many conservatives don’t like it because they don’t agree with federal regulations, while many greens are suspicious of it as a potential spur for development.

“Mitigation banking is good policy, but it has never had a lover,” Howard said. “That’s a hell of a policy if neither side agrees with it. But that means it’s a good policy.”

Matthew Starr of the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper acknowledged that mitigation banking is “a little bit of a Catch-22.”

“In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need mitigation. It would be removed because that’s what’s best for the environment and the public,” he said.

But, he added, “in any political climate this is necessary because it’s the only way it’s going to be done.”

Wicker, the folksy FWS biologist, turned metaphoric when asked the significance of the Milburnie Dam removal.

“A blind hog finds an acorn every now and then,” he said. “I think we are about to eat a great big acorn.”

Neuse River unleashed as Raleigh's Milburnie Dam removal completed 


Raleigh’s Milburnie Dam is gone, unleashing the Neuse River

By Richard Stradling [email protected]

Neuse River unleashed as Raleigh’s Milburnie Dam removal completed  [LINK]
November 27, 2017 02:06 PM

Less than two weeks after workers began clawing away at it, the Milburnie Dam is gone, and the Neuse River is flowing freely through Raleigh for the first time in centuries.

The dam was built of stone and concrete in about 1900 to harness the river for power, creating what was essentially a narrow six-mile-long lake on the east side of Raleigh. It replaced a timber dam that was built to power a paper mill before the Civil War and which succeeded earlier dams, said George Howard, CEO of of Restoration Systems, the Raleigh company that is removing it.

Restoration Systems is spending millions to restore this stretch of the river to its natural state. The company will make that back by selling mitigation credits to governments or developers who are required to compensate for destroying streams and wetlands elsewhere.

Its largest customer, Howard said, will likely be the N.C. Department of Transportation, which will in essence pay to restore six miles of the Neuse River to partially make up for the streams and other habitat it will destroy in building N.C. 540 across southern Wake County in the coming years.

Read more

Construction Industry Compliance Assistance Center (CICA)

Thumbs up to one construction industry compliance advocacy group for what it is saying about mitigation banking!
+ + + It is a regulatory preference that the wetlands are kept undisturbed. Where avoidance is not practical, wetland substitution, or replacement, at another site often provides a sound solution for the need to preserve wetland habitats. Until the mid-1990s the developer had just two options:
1. Mitigate the impacted wetlands on-site. The developer could replace the lost wetlands on the same site but at a potential loss of expensive real estate value.
2. Mitigate the impacted wetlands off-site by purchasing another piece of property and construct compensatory wetlands. This option is usually prohibitive considering cost and the time requirements because developer must locate and purchase the land, secure the necessary permits and convert the property it into an acceptable wetland.

A relatively new concept called mitigation banking offers a new alternative that simplifies the process for the development community. Preserves, called mitigation banks, are large areas of constructed, restored, or preserved wetlands set aside for the express purpose of providing compensatory mitigation for impacts to habitat. A bank is authorized to sell the habitat values created on the preserve. These values, known as credits, are sold to landowners who need to substitute wetlands for those lost to development where avoidance or on-site mitigation is not feasible. Get a quote from Central Penn Contracting on the construction.
+ + +
For more on CICA, go to


This Just In: Milburnie Dam agency and NGO Comments

Let Loose the Neuse: Riverkeeper Strongly Supports Removing the Milburnie Dam

The Neuse River Foundation, and the Upper Neuse River Waterkeeper, Alissa Bierma, have written a fine letter in support of the Milburnie Dam removal during the recently concluded public comment period. We are so pleased that, in this expert organization’s estimation, the dam removal is the wise thing to do and will greatly benefit the ecological health of this important river.


Neuse River Waterkeeper’s Public Comment on the Milburnie Dam Removal

That Ain’t Right!: Critic of dam removal fails to disclose conflict

I came into the office this morning (Saturday!) and was surprised to learn I had missed a News and Observer article earlier this morning about our proposal to remove the Milburnie Dam on the Neuse River.

Anyway, I found the article, “Firm Again Asks to Remove Dam,” a mixed bag.  I appreciated seeing the support of the Neuse River Association, and the accurate comments of Dickie Harrison of the Deep River Parks Association about the Carbonton Dam.  But I was shocked and disappointed to see a name from Restoration Systems past make nutty statements about the Lowell Dam project — and fail to be identified as someone with an ax to grind.

David Grady is quoted saying,

 “The fish that they were supposed to spawn were going to have to grow legs, because they dried the river up,” he said. “They absolutely decimated the river.”

— David Grady

I’ve got two problems with that silly quote. One, it is demonstrably inaccurate that the Lowell dam removal failed to enhance the spawning opportunities for migratory fish (more on that in a moment) or that we, “dried the river up.”  And two, David Grady is the disgruntled son of a fine man RS was involved in a purchase of land from well before the Lowell Dam was removed, making him a score settler — not a source of good information.

I suspect his beef has less to do with the river — and more to do with…..his beef over the earlier transaction.

As for the Little River after the Lowell Dam was removed, here is what N.C. State and 876 fish have to say:

Prior to the removal of Lowell Mill Dam on the Little River, resident upstream fish could migrate downstream by spilling over the dam, but upstream migration, including that by anadromous fish, was precluded. Following dam removal, both resident and anadromous fish species were captured at the weir moving upstream and downstream. In total, 876 unique fish took advantage of the unobstructed migration and some migrated past the former dam site in both directions. American shad and gizzard shad utilized the entire extent of restored habitat as they migrated up to the impassable Atkinson Mill Dam. Increased spawning migrations by American shad following dam removals have been documented in previous studies (Walburg and Nichols 1967, Burdick and Hightower 2006). In addition to utilizing upstream habitat for spawning, the reconnected river allows fish to move freely for food, cover, and preferred water temperatures, flow, and depth in the Little River, but also in tributaries and the Neuse River.

Annual Report

Joshua K. Raabe
Joseph E. Hightower
United State Geological Survey
North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
North Carolina State University, Department of Zoology
Raleigh, North Carolina
February 20, 2008

If 876 fish seems a bit low, consider that this was in 2007, one of the worst droughts in recent years (see video).  The fact remains that removing the Lowell Dam was good for the Little River and good for fish — if not David Grady.

As for the Little River “drying up,” consider this quote from Dr. Josh Raabe of N.C. State:

“That’s what excites me, when we catch huge fish, the big catfish.
We’ve caught a couple of 40-pound-plus catfish,” Danesi said. “I like seeing the dynamics of the river, too. Just a couple of days ago, this was a trickle, and now it’s seven feet.”  Josh Raabe, Researchers Study Little River Migration, Goldsboro News Argus, July 15, 2010

Josh gets it.  Natural river levels fluctuate. Sometimes the river is low — sometimes it is high.  That’s what healthy rivers without dams do.

Finally, make certain to check out this fabulous video produced by N.C. State regarding the recent ecological history of the Little River following the dam removals.  If removing the dam was an environmental disaster — I’ll take another helping:


Firm Again Asks to Remove Neuse’s Milburnie Dam

Raleigh News and Observer

December 10, 2011

RALEIGH New plans are rising to demolish and remove the 15-foot Milburnie Dam, the last man-made barrier along the Neuse River between Falls Lake and Pamlico Sound.

Restoration Systems, the Raleigh-based firm seeking approval, argues that pulling down the dam will release more than 32,000 linear feet of water and return the Neuse to a more natural state.

In their prospectus submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they predict water quality will improve and migratory fish such as striped bass and American shad will get to swim and spawn farther upriver.

“If you just remove the dam, you open up a whole new world of habitat,” said Adam Riggsbee, consultant to Restoration Systems. “It’s almost instantaneous.”

But residents along the river see a grim future for the Neuse without the dam, which dates to 1855. Water levels would drop so drastically that Raleigh’s river would become a trickle, they say, spoiling the scenery just as the city is working to draw people there with greenways and pedestrian bridges.

They recall that the Corps turned down Restoration Systems last year, asking the firm to provide more data on the potential for draining wetlands and spreading toxic sediment.

“If they remove the dam, instead of having a nice beautiful river above the dam for the enjoyment of everyone, what we’re going to have is a meandering little muddy steam that you and I can wade across,” said James E. Smallwood, who lives just above the dam.

Meanwhile, the public has until Dec. 14 to comment.

Based in Raleigh, Restoration Systems has a long history of environmental mitigation banking, which means the firm does work to improve ecology and receives credits for that work. Those credits can then be sold to public and private developers doing construction projects that negatively impact wetlands.

As proposed, those credits could be used in a territory following the Neuse basin and its immediate surroundings, an area that stretches roughly from Person to Craven counties.

‘Decimated’ river

In recent years, Restoration Systems has taken out dams on the Deep and Little rivers nearby. Reviews are mixed.

Kenly Mayor David Grady said the Little River is narrow and shallow enough to jump across within three miles of the spot where the dam was removed. “The fish that they were supposed to spawn were going to have to grow legs, because they dried the river up,” he said. “They absolutely decimated the river.”

On the Deep River near the Chatham-Lee county border, taking out the dam rid the river of oil slicks and algae blooms in the lake-like water, said Dick Harrison of the Deep River Parks Association.

“Everything has turned out very good for us,” he said. “The water quality, the fish, the wildlife. I actually had five teenagers baptized down there.”

The firm’s prospectus is more than six times longer than its 2010 proposal, and it addresses the wetlands concerns by estimating that roughly 11 acres would be threatened by removing the dam.

As to the sediments, Restoration Systems points to a study conducted in August by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Raleigh. Data from the study were not included in the firm’s prospectus, but a draft report of the findings was provided to The News & Observer.

Dr. Tom Augspurger, ecologist and contaminants specialist with the Fish and Wildlife Service, reported pollutants in the samples collected both above and below the dam were lower than the level of concern.

Also, he said pollutants in sediment below the dam were typically higher than above, concluding that removing the dam is unlikely to increase pollution downriver.

Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Alissa Bierma said she supports removing the dam to make the Neuse more free-flowing. But she thinks the area where mitigation credits could be used should be smaller.

If the Corps approves Restoration Systems’ prospectus for the Neuse, it would still have to issue a permit later. Taking out the dam, if approved, would take years.

[email protected] or 919-829-4818

National Support: American Rivers advocates for Milburnie Dam removal

Thrilled to see our friends at American Rivers asking their members to support the Milburnie Dam removal!
Click the image to visit the site:

Carbonton Dam removal: A 6th Anniversary Look Back

Hard Hat News, 2006. Demolition of the Carbonton Dam, by Gwen Laird Pernie

In the Central Piedmont Region of North Carolina an effort is underway to restore 10-miles of the Deep River, a tributary to the Cape Fear River Basin. The river has been environmentally damaged for the past 200 years, when the first dam was built at Carbonton to power a mill on the riverbank. This $8.2 million dam-removal project, the largest ever of its kind in North Carolina, is also the first dam removal in the state to be done primarily for mitigation purposes. This project is the culmination of a five-year planning effort by Restoration Systems, LLC, of Raleigh, NC (owner of the dam) to re-establish the native aquatic ecology of the Cape Fear River Basin to gain “mitigation credits” under the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program. It was planned and is being implemented in close coordination with multiple county, state, and federal regulatory agencies. The dam is a former hydropower generating facility that is licensed under the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission. Site contractor for the project is Backwater Environmental of Pittsboro, NC, a subsidiary of Osborne Company General Contractors of Eden, NC. Osborne will handle the physical demolition and heavy work of the project, while Backwater will handle the earthmoving, grading, site restoration, and softer work. Restoration Systems retained Milone & MacBroom Inc. (MMI), of Cheshire, Connecticut and Greenville, South Carolina to investigate the existing dam and assist with agency permitting, and to design the removal strategy, prepare construction documents, and handle inspection during demolition. MMI is also designing a future public recreation park that will occupy the south riverbank at the dam site. According to Ken Kloeber, branch office manager of MMI’s southeastern regional office in Greenville, the most challenging aspect of the project was to design a dam removal sequence and methodology that will get heavy equipment in and out of the river quickly. “The challenge is to minimize the exposure of the removal operations on the Deep River system and the aquatic critters that this entire project will benefit,” Kloeber explained. “We wanted to avoid short term effects while accomplishing the greater good in the long term.” “An additional challenge was that much of the planning involved working with and getting approval from many county, state, and federal agencies–sometimes with overlapping authorities–on a fast-track schedule,” Kloeber continued. “Hydropower dam demolitions involving FERC approval typically take years in the planning and design stage. With the owner, contractor, and agencies cooperating, this one took a matter of months.” “Every dam removal is unique because no two are constructed the same,” Kloeber said. “We had to first evaluate and understand the structural components of the spillway and the powerhouse before designing the demolition methodology and sequence. It’s typically easiest to demolish dams in reverse order of their construction sequence.” “The planning of the particular project has been especially interesting because we were able to locate original 1921 construction photos of the powerhouse and spillway in their de-watered state, which gave us insight into how the facility was constructed,” Kloeber stated. “It literally painted a picture of what was hidden under the water, and allowed us to anticipate in order to save time.” “Typically, dam removals involve starts and stops as structures are uncovered and new situations need to be assessed, Kloeber said. “Having the right information and evaluations of the structures up front has allowed this demolition to proceed very smoothly. To the credit of Restoration Systems, the owners recognized the need for adequate investigations right away, and they provided us the resources to make that happen.” “Because of its age and type of construction, the Carbonton Dam is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places,” stated Kloeber. “So, Restoration Systems has taken extra care to preserve the history of the structures.”

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Thar' She Blows: Condit Dam goes down ugly in Washington State


As readers know, RS loves blowing up old, useless dams. And apparently so does the federal government. Look here at the Condit Dam recently breeched by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore salmon waters in Washington State.

In North Carolina there is much gnashing of regulatory teeth and pulling of agency hair regarding the potential for a dam removal to make the water “turbid” (muddy) for some time during removal. As a result, and with some justification, RS dam removals have been managed with very little sediment released.  We drain the bathtub slooooowly.

Out West this did not appear to be much of a problem. My educated guess is that the sediment release pictured here at the Condit Dam would be considered “catastrophic” in the Old North State (by the same federal government that pulled the plug on Condit).

Each dam removal has its own special constraints and trade-offs. And I do not begrudge the federal sponsors their ability to break a few eggs when making an omelet of the White Salmon River. But it is amazing how one procedure can be employed in one area — and considered horrific in another.