Asheville Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America





April 2008 Asheville Field Office press releases, story ideas, and media advisories

April 9, 2008
Decrepit Dams to be Removed From Toe River Valley

Cliff Vinson, Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council, 828/452-2519
Starli Phillips McDowell, Toe River Valley Watch, 828/675-4311

A pair of dams, one in Mitchell the other in Yancey County, are slated to be removed in an effort spearheaded by Toe River Valley Watch and Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council.

One dam sits on the Toe River, outside of Spruce Pine in Mitchell County, while the other sits on the Cane River, upstream from Yancey County’s Mountain Heritage High School. The Cane and Toe Rivers join to form the Nolichucky River, which flows west into Tennessee.

“These dams serve no purpose. They’re a safety hazard and an impediment to fish movement,” said Cliff Vinson, coordinator of the Blue Ridge RC&D Council, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Both dams were constructed for power generation, though it has been decades since either produced electricity. Today, they’ve been breached by their respective rivers and all that remain are massive slabs of concrete, impeding natural water flow. It’s been so long since either dam served a purpose no one can find records showing who they belong to. The dams impede the up and downstream movement of fish and other aquatic life, splitting populations, leaving each portion diminished in size and genetically isolated, making them more susceptible to impacts such as disease or poor water quality.

It was at the Toe River dam, outside Spruce Pine, that a local resident died in a paddling accident when he was caught in a hydraulic immediately downstream of the dam. This dam’s removal will help clear the way for the Toe River Trail – a proposed paddling trail spearheaded by Toe River Valley Watch.

“I think momentum is building to protect and improve these rivers, and we’re glad we could be a part of that,” said Starli Phillips McDowell, president of Toe River Valley Watch.

Currently, a pair of consulting firms are studying options for getting the dams out and restoring the stream channels. It’ll be a slow and deliberate process as slabs of concrete are removed piecemeal and and the stream channel is stabilized to prevent it from eroding.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently provided habitat improvement grants to both Toe River Valley Watch and the Blue Ridge RC&D, which will use portions of the funds on the projects.





Media contact:

Gary Peeples
office - 828/258-3939, ext 234
cell - 828/216-4970
fax - 828/258-5330
160 Zillicoa St.
Asheville, NC 28801

If you can't reach Gary Peeples, please contact:

Janet Mizzi
office - 828/258-3939, ext. 223
cell - 828/215-1741
fax - 828/258-5330
160 Zillicoa St.
Asheville, NC 28801

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Last Updated: May 15, 2008