Challenges and opportunities for dam removal projects in Texas Lessons that can be learned from other states Ryan McGillicuddy – Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Stronach Dam, Fish in the Pine River, MI Background Nationwide: • 75,000 dams listed on the National Inventory of Dams • Estimated 2.5 million nationwide Texas: • Over 7500 dams listed on the National Inventory of Dams • 1000s more undocumented dams • 74 dams failed in Texas between 1989 and 2009. Benefits of Dams • • • • • Water supply Hydropower Flood control Navigation Recreational opportunities Starcke Dam, Marble Falls, TX. 2007 Flood Impacts of Dams • Alter fish and wildlife habitats and natural fluvial processes – Alter the dynamic transport of water and sediment – Barrier to passage of nutrients and aquatic organisms – Change water temperatures – Contaminated sediments – Floodplain isolation and reduced peak flows – Shift from lotic to lentic habitat less suitable for native species, increases generalist species and may decrease diversity • • • Aging infrastructure poses risk to property and safety. Life expectancy of the average dam is 50 years. Average dam age in the U.S. is 51 years. Many dams are now obsolete Dam Removal: A New Option • Once perceived as anti-progress • Increasingly accepted as an option for restoring waterways • Advancing science documenting effects of removal • Successful projects have brought visibility, provided positive examples • Costs are better understood: – Wisconsin, repair 3X the cost of removal – Pennsylvania, average cost of $75,000 • Nonetheless, a difficult process requiring the coordination of multiple stakeholders and regulatory agencies According to American Rivers: • 1,057 recorded dam removals in the US • 593 since 1999 • 63 in 2012 • Pennsylvania alone has removed ~275 since 1999, and ~50 since 2010 • No recent removals in the Southwest Englewood Dam, Englewood, Oh Questions • How do state programs regulate dam removal and to what extend do they assist in the process? • What are the variables that lead to success? • What can Texas learn from these successes? Study Area • Examined efforts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Texas. • Mostly small and/or obsolete dams Variables Reviewed • Legal framework/Permitting process • Agency structure and interagency coordination • Technical guidance provided • Availability of funding and/or financial assistance • Public outreach and stakeholder involvement Successful Practice States that use this practice Single Permit Application NH, PA, WI USACE State Programmatic General Permit NH, PA, WI Comments Simplifies process for dam owner. A permit waiver in the case of PA. Satisfies federal Clean Water Act permitting requirements. Required by law in states listed. May help Public Notice Period PA, WI to address stakeholder concerns early in process. Single Point of Contact NH, PA, WI Active Dam Safety Program NH, PA, WI Simplifies process for dam owner. Helps to identify potential projects. Can acts as a form of outreach. Enables consistent approach from state Regular Interagency Coordination NH, PA, WI regulatory bodies, state fish and wildlife agencies, federal agencies, historic commissions, etc. Assistance with Project Design PA, WI Multiple Guidance Documents Available NH, WI Consistent State Funding PA, WI May reduce project costs for dam owner. Provides important information to dam owners and stakeholders. Directly assists dam owners and increases number of successful projects. Essential for reducing costs to state and Skilled Grant Coordination NH, PA, WI dam owners. Increases number of successful projects. Partners may act as advocates where Partnerships NH, PA, WI states cannot and may be sources of additional funding. Helps to distribute work load. Other considerations for Texas Geography: Surface water Paddlefish (Polydon spathula) Giant freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium carcinus) Shovelnose Sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) Species with lifecycles impacted by dams Water Rights Drought Funding • Grant TCEQ authority to levy fines for dam safety violations. • Increase funding for dam safety program, including grants for dam owners with limited means. • Fishing license surcharge ($1) for river restoration projects, including dam removal. Approximately $2 million. • All require legislative action. Funding, cont’d • Improved technical assistance from agencies (project design, grant writing assistance, etc.) should lower cost. • Partnerships • • • • Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership Desert Fish Habitat Partnership Guadalupe Bass Restoration Initiative Local watershed groups • Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) funds • USFWS Fish Passage Program Fish Passage Program Ottine Dam removal project. San Marcos River, Ottine, TX Mitigation Banks • Used to offset permitted impacts to waters of the U.S. • For-profit model • Increasing number of stream restoration banks in Texas • Limitations: • Small order streams • Existing policy does not favor in-channel restoration Questions?