USGS - science for a changing world

USGS Multimedia Gallery

Maps, Imagery, and Publications Hazards Newsroom Education Jobs Partnerships Library About USGS Social Media

Multimedia Gallery Home | Videos

Multi-agency coordination leads to successful dam removal, Simkins Dam, Patapsco River Maryland

Information presented is factual at the time of creation.
If no transcript and/or closed-caption is available, please notify us.
[Music playing]

Faith: So we're standing really close

to where the dam was removed, the

Simkins dam on the Patapsco River,

close to Ellicott City in Maryland.

It's one of the four dams on the

Patapsco, two of which have been taken

out recently. I have some of the people

standing here with me that were key to

having this happen. Serena, what's some

of the history here, why this dam could be removed?

Serena: We're actually, like you said,

there are found dams on the Patapsco.

The dam upstream of this, the Union

dam, was actually under consideration

for removal by the Maryland Department

of Natural Resources. It was the only

dam that was reached by hurricane

Agnes, in the 1970s, so that particular

one was one that had already been in

the works for several years. Downstream

of this, the Bloede dam, is also owned

by the Department of Natural Resources

and there have been about ten people

that have died at that structure. So

it's a real safety hazard. So the park

and DNR, have a vested interest in

seeing that dam removed as well.

So really what you had was this

privately owned dam in the middle of

it. Luckily, the mill associated with

the dam, which most recently

manufactured recycled cardboard,

actually burnt mostly down in 1995. So

the dam was currently serving no

function. Again, it could have broken

up the potential for contiguous set of

removals. So we approached the

landowner and wondering if he'd give us

permission to just yank the dam out.

And he was very supportive of doing

that. And all that kind of came on the

top of the fact that the Maryland

Department of Natural Resources, their

fisheries department, have been doing

monitoring on the Patapsco, at the fish

ladders that were on all these dams and

had been able to document the fact that

the ladders that were here were

actually ineffective for passing some

of the target species like alewife,

blueback herring, and American eel. And

so, what better way to pass these fish

than removing the dam.

Faith: Matt NOAA played a part on this

as well. What is some of the background

on their role?

Matt: Sure, I'm part of the National

Marine Fisheries Service part of NOAA

and we have an interest in marine fish

that Serena was just describing these

diadromous fish. They spend some part

of their lifecycle in fresh water and

some of their life cycle in the ocean.

And so they need to travel between the

two. And we have a fish passage program

as part of our restoration center that

provides funding and technical

assistance to try and get these

projects done. So that's basically our

role how we've been a funder and and

folks like myself, we give technical assistance.

We give funding for implementation as

well as, especially in this case, we

fund monitoring of project results –

for lots of reasons. Obviously, you

want to know the effectiveness of the

project for the fish passage. But these

projects have also other implications.

For example, in this case, we have a

large accretion of sand behind the dam

that we released through the removal.

We don't always release sediments

accreted behind the dam when we do

removals, but that's increasingly

becoming a – I don't know about a

preferred – but an appealing technique.

Because it can be a lot less costly if

the sediments are cleaned. But,

obviously, downstream interests, both

living, biotic, aquatic resources,

floodplain animals and whatnot and

humans, go through human life and

property have interests downstream. So

we have a strong interest in

understanding in detail, the effects of

that kind of sediment load and so, as

you'll hear, I'm sure, from these two

more about those efforts to learn more

details about those impacts. And

importantly, the recovery rates of the

downstream reach of those kinds of impacts.

Faith: That's great. We have a lot of

sediment. What's the story behind this

dam, especially sand—Allen your

background is in looking at physical

processes and how rivers change, what

do you expect to see as the sediment is released?

Allen: Well, what's important is that

rivers are in an equilibrium, with

sediment, slope and water, and when we

remove a dam we have the potential to

change any of those factors. Now

sediment moves as bedload and suspended sediment.

Faith: So like in the water and on the bed of the channel…?

Allen: Right, so we have sand behind

the dam to move along the bed or in

suspension. The release of that

sediment has the potential to actually

change the channel morphology. So we

need to understand how that

potentially could happen and how that

can affect habitat. So we're interested

in both understanding bedload transport

as a result of removal, as well as the

finer material in suspension that has

the ability to bury the habitat, or go

downstream and affect Chesapeake Bay.

Faith: So, as part of it, so we're

looking at effects both upstream of the

dam too and how much a sediment is

coming out and where it's all going.

And that takes some for that to happen,

right; it doesn't all go out in one big

pulse of release kind of thing. So

Graham, McCormick Taylor is doing some

of the work, what's kind of a scale of

what you have to do to be able to

monitor some of those changes?

Graham: Well, we've established a

series of 31 different cross sections,

extending from about a mile upstream of

the dam, all the way down, pretty close

to the mouth near the inner Harbor. So

it's going to include facies mapping,

where we're going to actually map the

river – the way the river looks so that

we can tell before and after the dam

removal, what the bed of the river

looks like. We're also going to be able

to quantify the amount of sediment that

is being deposited in these areas, and

the amount of sediment that's been

released from the dam.

Faith: You're kind of tracking it

through… and how long are you going to

have to do that for?

Graham: That's going to go on for five years.

Faith: Five years?

Graham: We're going to do a series of

six different surveys, twice a year,

and then following one larger storm

event. Hopefully a hurricane.

Faith: Great. Yes, a lot of different pieces.

[Music playing]

[End of Audio]


Title: Multi-agency coordination leads to successful dam removal, Simkins Dam, Patapsco River Maryland


Faith Fitzpatrick (U.S. Geological Survey) and Serena McClain (American Rivers, Director, River Restoration) discuss the history of how the dam removal became possible. Allen Gellis (USGS Maryland Water Science Center) discusses the importance of monitoring sediment transport related to dam removal. Matt Collins (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) describes NOAA's Fish Passage Program and how NOAA works to fund implementation and monitoring of dam removals. Graham Boardman (McCormick Taylor) discusses geomorphic monitoring and mapping, and sediment releases associated with dam removal.

Location: MD, Patapsco River, USA

Date Taken: 3/23/2011

Length: 6:33

Video Producer: Douglas A. Harned , National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA), USGS, North Carolina Water Science Center, Raleigh, NC

Note: This video has been released into the public domain by the U.S. Geological Survey for use in its entirety. Some videos may contain pieces of copyrighted material. If you wish to use a portion of the video for any purpose, other than for resharing/reposting the video in its entirety, please contact the Video Producer/Videographer listed with this video. Please refer to the USGS Copyright section for how to credit this video.

Additional Video Credits:

Faith Fitzpatrick: Scriptwriter, Narrator, Scientist Consultant

Gerard McMahon: Producer

Douglas Harned: Producer, Video, Editor

Alan Cressler: Video

Luke Myers: Video

Jim Thompson: Video

Serena McClain (American Rivers, Director, River Restoration)

Allen Gellis (USGS Maryland Water Science Center)

Matt Collins (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Graham Boardman (McCormick Taylor)

File Details:

Suggest an update to the information/tags?

Streamflow (Set) RSS Media RSS PRMS Graphical User Interface PRMS Climate Distribution Modules
In: Water collection

Tags: AmericanRivers DamRemoval DouglasHarned EUSE FaithFitzpatrick Habitat Hydrology Maryland McCormickTaylor NAWQA NOAA PatapscoRiver Sediment StreamRehabilitation StreamRestoration SuspendedSediment Turbidity USGS Urbanization WaterQuality WaterResourceManagement


Browse More: Video Collections | Video Sets

* DOI and USGS link and privacy policies apply.


Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Image Gallery Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Friday, March 20, 2015