Trout Unlimited: A Leader in Dam Removal


Trout Unlimited: A Leader in Dam Removal

Trout Unlimited: A Leader in Dam Removal


6/30/1999 — — TROUT UNLIMITED AND DAMS: Founded in 1959 in Grayling, Michigan, Trout Unlimited is America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU’s 100,000 members in nearly 500 chapters nationwide are dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Almost from the beginning, Trout Unlimited has been a national leader in defending America’s trout and salmon fisheries from the harm caused by dams.

Dams are one of the most significant and visible obstacles to restoring the integrity of riverine systems. They can alter natural flow patterns, fragment habitat, block migration corridors and degrade water quality. Entire ecosystems can be transformed by dams through fluctuating water temperatures, decreased oxygen availability, fishery changes and disrupted hydrologic regimes. Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups are involved with dam issues to ensure that all factors, from environmental impacts to economics, are carefully considered in decisions to construct, repair, or remove dams nationwide.

EARLY ANTI-DAM EFFORTS: By 1965, TU was already establishing itself as a national player in trout conservation. In that year, TU won its first national campaign: Halting the construction of Reichle Dam on Montana’s Big Hole River and protecting over 20 miles of wild trout water. TU’s work to halt ill-conceived dam projects continues to this day.

In 1971, TU initiated two important legal actions to protect fish from dams. The first, today considered perhaps the most important early application of the Endangered Species Act, stopped the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River. While the victory was thwarted by an eleventh-hour congressional appropriations rider, it put TU “on the map” as a major environmental organization. The second was aimed at saving Idaho’s Teton River and its cutthroat fishery from a proposed dam. TU ran out of money to prosecute the case; the dam was built but failed five years later, killing 14 people. In 1978, TU spearheaded a successful campaign to protect the Yellowstone River, America’s largest remaining free-flowing stream, from the Allenspur Dam. Trout Unlimited also led efforts against the ill-conceived Two Forks Dam in Colorado.

SMALL DAMSctnIn partnership with the River Alliance of Wisconsin, which has pioneered dam-removal efforts at the local and state level, TU has developed The Small Dams Project. This four-part initiative will assist communities and others facing hard decisions on dam repair or removal. The simple goal of the project is to ensure that the dam removal option is considered on its merits. The project initially focuses on Wisconsin, while developing materials applicable to small dam issues nationwide.

FERC-LICENSED DAMS: Consideration of the “4H’s” – habitat, hydro, harvest, and hatcheries – guides TU in its mission to protect and restore the nation’s coldwater fisheries. “Hydro,” the second “H,” is often used as an abbreviation for hydroelectric dams, most of which are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). TU is involved in the FERC process to ensure that the needs of trout and salmon are represented in dam licensings.

For more information:

Visit American Rivers at

Download A River Reborn: Benefits for People and Wildlife of the Kennebec River Following the Removal of Edwards Dam at

Download the Trout Unlimited and American Rivers draft report on dam removal success stories at

Date: 6/30/1999