Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Secretary Jewell Tours Hughesville Dam Removal on Musconetcong River
Project Will Improve Fish Passage and Reduce Flooding Risks

September 8, 2016


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External Affairs
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Musconetcong River

Dam removal will allow water to pass more freely along the designated "Wild and Scenic" Musconetcong River. Credit: Dan Kort/IPPE

Warren County, NJ – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined Interior, state and local officials and partners to highlight the removal of Hughesville Dam, a project that will improve ecological conditions and habitat for wildlife and help ensure the safety and well-being of people living in nearby communities. Calling the project a "model for collaborative conservation," Jewell joined a roundtable discussion with local partners and Service staff and toured the project work at the dam site. 

The removal of the Hughesville Dam is part of a larger partner-based effort to restore the 42-mile Musconetcong – a designated “Wild and Scenic River” – to a free-flowing state. Hughesville is the fifth dam to be removed, helping to open up fish passage while improving safety and flooding risks for the local community. The project is one of a dozen dam removals in the Northeast supported by federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery to help strengthen natural defenses along the Atlantic Coast and protect communities and wildlife against future storms predicted with a changing climate.

“The area around the Hughesville Dam is at risk for annual flooding – removal of the dam could reduce floods by one to nearly 10 feet,” said Eric Schrading, field supervisor for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s New Jersey Field Office. “It will also greatly improve access to upstream spawning and rearing habitat for eels, herring and shad.”

Secretary Jewell speaks at a press conference at the Hughesville Dam removal project. Located 3.5 miles upstream of the confluence of the Musconetcong and Delaware Rivers, the Hughesville Dam – 150 feet long and 18 feet tall – was built in 1889 to support paper production, but it has not been used since 1999. The “Musky” is popular for recreation such as fishing, boating and swimming. Removal of the dam is projected to provide $2.5 million in socioeconomic benefits, including increased sportfishing activity and reduced flooding risk.

“Over time we have learned the importance of free-flowing rivers to the ecology of waterways and to the quality of life of our communities,” said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin. “The removal of Hughesville Dam, a structure that has not served any practical purpose for years, will help return the beautiful Musconetcong River to its natural condition, benefitting water quality, improving habitat for fish and wildlife, and reducing flooding risks for surrounding communities.”

Beth Styler Barry, executive director of the Musconetcong Watershed Association, said the project will improve water quality for human and aquatic life, reconnect fisheries and provide kayakers and canoeists with safe passage free of portages and the treacherous hydraulic traps below dams. “Following the dam removal, fishermen will enjoy a greater variety of native fish to catch, possibly including shad,” she said.

The first phase of dam removal – dredging the sediment that had accumulated behind the dam – is already complete. The next phase includes breaching the dam and removing the dam materials, a process that should take a few weeks. The finishing touches will be to restore the stream channel and stabilize the banks of the river with rocks and vegetation. The whole project is expected to be complete by late fall 2016.

“The removal of the Hughesville Dam is another exciting step towards restoring a free-flowing Musconetcong River,” said Laura Craig, Ph.D., Director of River Restoration for American Rivers. “The Musky is littered with outdated dams that no longer meet the needs of a modern society. Like the previous dam removals in this watershed, this project restores and reconnects habitat and will benefit a variety of fish and wildlife. We’re proud to be part of the wonderful partnership that is working to develop common-sense solutions for dealing with outdated infrastructure and to ensure a healthy, vibrant river for future generations.”

Funding for the $1.5 million Hughesville Dam project comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) through the Department of the Interior (DOI) under the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 and from settlement funds used by the Natural Resource Trustees including DOI and the State of New Jersey, among others, under the Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Restoration program.

Partners in the project include the Musconetcong Watershed Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), NJDEP Bureau of Dam Safety and Flood Control, NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service (NPS), American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) and the dam owner, International Process Plants and Equipment Corporation (IPPE).

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