Dam Removals Begin on the West Fork

First run-of-river dam removals in West Virginia will benefit fish, wildlife and the community

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Release
17 March 2016

CLARKSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA — Next week, heavy machinery will roll down to the West Fork River and begin the first run-of-river dam removals in West Virginia, returning the waterway to free-flowing conditions not seen in nearly a century, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.

Piece by piece, the West Milford, Highland and Two Lick dams will be pulled from the West Fork River over three months, reconnecting nearly 40 miles of river for native fish and other wildlife. The project will eliminate the safety hazards created by the dams while also improving water quality, river habitat, and recreational opportunities on the river.

The Clarksburg Water Board will continue to draw water from the pool above Hartland Dam, which will remain in place to provide clean, safe drinking water to local residents.

Demolition will begin with West Milford Dam, then Two Lick Dam and conclude with Highland Dam. Each dam removal is expected to take about 3 weeks. As work begins on each dam, water levels in the upstream pool will drop a few feet each day for several days. During this time, residents should use caution when on the river and avoid the construction area around each dam.

As the water levels in the pools behind the dams drop, biologists will rescue stranded mussels along the river banks and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan (REAP) program and volunteers will help remove exposed trash and large debris. The concrete from the dams will be crushed into gravel that will be used to create and enhance public access sites for fishing and boating and to improve recreational trails in Harrison County.

“The dam removals and restoration work will enhance the safety, cleanliness, and beauty of the West Fork River in Harrison County,” said John Schmidt, the Service’s West Virginia Field Office Supervisor.

Free-flowing waters will encourage a more diverse and resilient river environment that flushes nutrients, pollutants and sediment, ultimately supporting thriving fish and freshwater mussel populations and enhanced fishing for smallmouth bass and muskellunge.

Landowners interested in assistance with streambank seeding, native vegetation plantings, or fencing installations for livestock should call the USFWS at 304-636-6586.