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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Liberty Mills Dam Removal

Region 3, June 14, 2013
Liberty Mills Dam.
Liberty Mills Dam. - Photo Credit: n/a
Looking downstream towards site where dam was removed.
Looking downstream towards site where dam was removed. - Photo Credit: n/a
Looking across the Eel at the site of the dam, note small section of dam in the foreground.
Looking across the Eel at the site of the dam, note small section of dam in the foreground. - Photo Credit: n/a

The Eel River is a 110 mile-long stream in north-central Indiana and is a critically important tributary of the Wabash River. Six low-head dams constructed in the past to power gristmills or sawmills impact fish movement and degrade stream habitat. Two dams, at Liberty Mills and North Manchester, were privately owned. The owners agreed to allow removal of the dams.

Manchester University (North Manchester, Ind.) Biology Department/Environmental Studies Program has been involved with extensive studies of this stretch of the Eel, along with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the Wildlife Diversity Section of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the Fish Passage Program, committed $82,000 towards all costs involved in removing the 2 dams, and is providing additional funding towards post-removal monitoring. The monitoring will be conducted by Manchester University students.
The Partners for Fish & Wildlife Biologist was involved in project planning and provided $7,500 to the owner of the Liberty Mills Dam towards the costs of removal. After four and one-half years of planning, meetings, and permitting, the six foot-tall dam was removed in October of 2012. The project re-opened 6.4 miles of the main stem of the river for the benefit of fish and mussels.

In conjunction with the Fish Passage Program-funded removal of the North Manchester Dam on October 11, 2012, 190 miles of first, second, and third order streams were reopened. The removal of the two dams will improve movement of stream fishes, improve stream habitat, and return natural stream processes to a significant portion of the Eel River. Smallmouth bass, an important recreational fish species, will benefit from the project. Other fish species expected to benefit include rockbass, greater redhorse, a state-listed endangered species, and eastern sand darter, a resource conservation priority for the Midwest. In addition, the American eel and the state-listed endangered Rabbitsfoot mussel are expected to benefit from the project.

Contact Info: Rick Ward, 574-896-3999, rick_ward@fws.gov