NEWS ** 2 pages ** August 31, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: Chris Wood, VP for Conservation Programs, 703-284-9403
Steve Moyer, VP for Government Affairs, 703-284-9406
Conservation group sees new NOAA program as having “phenomenal potential to restore our home waters”
WASHINGTON – The national conservation organization Trout Unlimited (TU) today applauded the Department of Commerce’s creation of a grant program designed to remove barriers to fish passage in communities nationwide, calling it “a progressive initiative with phenomenal potential to restore our home waters.”
Announced at the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation, the Open Rivers Initiative will provide funds through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help towns tear down obsolete dams and improve the many culverts that block fish attempting to swim upstream.
“Given significant, secure and continued funding,” said Chris Wood, a TU vice president, “the Open Rivers Initiative could make a much-needed contribution to our nation’s overall aquatic health. We have seen the resurgence of life that followed dam removals in waters like Maine’s Georges and Wisconsin’s Onion Rivers, so we know that such efforts can lead to positive change. And we can’t wait to see the improvement in fish populations that will follow a series of small dam removal projects in communities country-wide.”
NOAA estimates that there are 2.5 million dams across the country, many less than six feet tall and some up to 200 years old. The Open Rivers Initiative will target dams where community consensus and the dam owners support removal, the dam no longer serves a useful purpose, and removal will have the greatest benefit to anadromous fish like salmon, striped bass and shad.
“One of the beauties of this program is that it can address troubled stocks of native, sea-run fish while improving water quality and boosting local economies, by increasing the numbers of anglers and boaters drawn to an area,” Wood said.
The idea for the ORI originated in part from discussions held regarding the current plan for the removal of dams on Maine’s Penobscot River. Upon its completion, the Penobscot project stands to make a major contribution to the recovery of the endangered Atlantic salmon, shad and striped bass. “On the Penobscot, we created a replicable model for cooperative river restoration, and in the ORI, we anticipate and welcome the means for replicating the model over and over again,” Wood said.
Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with more than 140,000 members dedicated to the protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.