Dam’s Days Numbered

A breached orphan dam in the Conewango Creek that has been creating dangerous currents for kayakers and canoers will be removed this summer.

The Hospital Dam in the creek near Warren State Hospital will be removed by American Rivers in partnership with the Conewango Creek Watershed Association, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership.

An exact date for the removal has not been finalized, Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy, associate director of American Rivers Restoration Program, said on Tuesday. Conewango Township has been notified about the removal project, she said, adding that the dam is considered a public safety hazard.

Hollingsworth-Segedy said four or five people have drowned in and around the dam since it was constructed.

“The dam being there is really dangerous to the water trail,” she said. “If we get that out that’s not something we have to worry about, kayakers and canoers trying to avoid.”

With the removal of the Carter Dam near the confluence of the Conewango Creek and the Allegheny River in 2009 and the hospital dam this summer, “we’re going to open another 27 miles of the Conewango Creek mainstream,” she said.

“There will be no dams from where the river confluences with the Allegheny all the way up into New York (State),” she said.

Removing the dam will serve a public safety service and will reconnect most of the Conewango Creek for freshwater mussel host species. American Rivers has documented 17 different species of freshwater mussels in the Conewango Creek, Hollingsworth-Segedy said.

The one-time expenditure will also remove the barrier for fish to the headwaters for spawning and rearing, she said.

“When you have a dam in the river it changes the flow process completely. Taking that out returns the river to a more normal flow which improves the oxygen level in the water…the fact that we’ve got freshwater mussel in the Conewango Creek and one dam to remove made this project a real priority with American Rivers,” she said. “If you’re looking for a way to make a big difference in a river with a single activity, removing a dam is the way to do it.”

The Times Observer previously reported the dam was built for water power by Hazeltine Wool Mill around 1874, which was located in the current location of Bollinger Enterprises.

The DEP had to conduct an engineering plan and design to remove the dam.

Hollingsworth-Segedy said a number of activities are planned once the dam is removed, including a first descent float with a group of kayakers, a stream clean-up and a day for children’s fishing in the spring.