Roaring River Dam To Be Removed
This will be the largest dam removal on record in Tennessee for river restoration purposes.
An aging dam on the Roaring River will be removed in a multi-organizational effort, currently slated for the week of July 31. The exact date will depend on river conditions.
This will be the largest Tennessee dam ever removed for river and stream restoration purposes. The dam is roughly 220 feet across and 15 feet tall. It is located in Jackson County about five miles before the beginning of the lake formed by the Cordell Hull Dam. The Roaring River is designated as a state scenic river and is a destination for paddlers, anglers and swimmers.
The Roaring River Dam, built in 1976 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is targeted for removal because the structure at its base is eroding in what is known as a “head cut,” creating a risk that this dam might fail. Rather than repair the dam, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Corps of Engineers determined that it would be better to remove the dam, which was originally built at TWRA’s request to keep reservoir species from migrating upstream into areas inhabited by stream fish. Fish surveys have shown that the barrier was not effective, and it is no longer needed.
“With the dam failing, it has provided an opportunity to enhance the connectivity within the Roaring River Watershed,” said Mark Thurman, TWRA Region 3 Fisheries Coordinator. “While the barrier has not excluded reservoir species, it does still function as barrier through most of the year. Removing the dam will open up the river for fish such as white bass, sauger, smallmouth bass and redhorse. It will also benefit other species such as the eastern hellbender, whose numbers have declined across the species range.”
The eastern hellbender is a giant native salamander (growing up to 16 inches) that is listed as endangered in many states. In Tennessee, it is listed as a species of greatest conservation need. The salamander has been found both above and below the dam, and its removal will reconnect these populations and allow for improved reproduction and overall species health.
“We know of more than 2,000 of these dams in Tennessee’s rivers and streams. Many have outlived their intended purpose and fallen into disrepair. There is a growing recognition that removing these old dams results in safer rivers for recreation and healthier habitat for wildlife,” said Rob Bullard, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers Program Director with The Nature Conservancy.
Partners in the joint effort to remove the aging dam include TWRA, the Corps of Engineers, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership.
Private landowners or others interested in removing failing or aging dams from their properties should contact Rob Bullard at The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee: firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-383-9909.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.