In 2018 and 2019, 30.5 additional stream miles were opened to fish passage through dam removal projects, representing a 23% achievement of the target to open an additional 132 miles every two years.

In 2016, the Fish Passage Workgroup reached their 2025 goal to open an additional 1,000 stream miles, which was established in the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. After requesting public feedback, the Principals’ Staff Committee (PSC), in January 2020, approved an outcome modification proposed by the Fish Passage Workgroup. The modification is more consistent with the best available science and establishes a new target to open an additional 132 miles every two years to fish passage.

In 2018 and 2019, 30.5 additional stream miles were opened to fish passage, falling 101.5 miles short of the two-year target. The workgroup attributes the low number of miles added to a decrease in the number of dam removals across all watershed states. Many dams are privately owned and many owners are not willing to pursue dam removal at this time. This limits the number of potential dam removal projects each year. Opportunities to restore fish passage through the retrofitting or removal of culverts—in addition to the removal of dams—are being investigated.

Data for this indicator are calculated using the Chesapeake Bay Fish Passage Prioritization Project following the removal of a dam or other barrier. Experts map and count the available upstream miles located between a removed blockage and the waterway’s headwaters or the next blockage that is in place. Dam removals and fish passage projects in Delaware, New York, and West Virginia are not included in this indicator’s dataset. The prioritization tool is also used to assess potential projects.

Dams, culverts and other barriers inhibit stream flow, limit stream habitat and block migratory fish from reaching their spawning grounds. Removing these barriers can restore water flow, reduce sediment build-up and allow shad, herring and other migratory species to move between fresh- and saltwater habitats.

Learn About Factors Influencing Progress

Management Strategy

To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:

  • Restoring historical fish migration routes by removing dams and opening streams to the movement of fish;
  • Documenting the return of fish to opened streams by establishing the presence or absence of target species (i.e., alewife, blueback herring, American shad, hickory shad, American eel and/or brook trout) at a select number of projects within the Chesapeake Bay watershed; and
  • Using the Chesapeake Bay Fish Passage Prioritization Project to implement high-priority dam removal and fish passage projects.

Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through data related to the number of stream miles opened each year (with a target of 132 miles opened every two years) and the presence of target species at restoration sites.

As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in August of 2019.

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Logic & Action Plan

Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.

Completed actions from this outcome's Logic & Action Plan include:

  • In 2016, The Nature Conservancy launched the Chesapeake Bay Fish Passage Prioritization Tool to help natural resource managers identify the fish passage restoration projects that would most benefit migratory and resident fish. The tool also allows users to develop custom management scenarios and model the potential effects of a fish passage restoration projects at a given dam.
  • In May 2017, the Fish Passage Workgroup gained formal Chesapeake Bay Program acceptance of the methodology behind the “miles opened” metric to support its definition of an upstream functional network.
  • In February and October of 2017, partners held the first and second meetings of the Pennsylvania Aquatic Connectivity Team.
  • Partners have completed several dam removal projects including the removal of the Bloede Dam on the Patapsco River in Maryland and the Monumental Mills Dam along Hazel River in Culpepper County, Virginia. In addition, six dams have been removed in Pennsylvania: Dugan Run, Wildcat Run, the Camp Michaux Lower Dam, the Eckenrode Mills Dam, the Mountain Springs Dam 2 and the Solomons Creek Dam.

Learn About Logic & Action Plan

Participating Partners

The Vital Habitats Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Sustainable Fisheries and Healthy Watersheds goal implementation teams.

Participating partners include:

  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources (State of Maryland)
  • University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (State of Maryland)
  • Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)
  • Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (Commonwealth of Virginia)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • American Rivers
  • Chesapeake Bay Trust
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center