Dams Remain an Important Part of River Alliance’s Work

Apr 7, 2020 | Dam Removal

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 WaterWays newsletterDownload a PDF of the full Newsletter.

River Alliance of Wisconsin has a long history with dams. In the organization’s early days River Alliance was a leader in dam removal in Wisconsin. Though this work is a smaller part of our organization today, River Alliance is still engaged in the relicensing of hydroelectric dams and this work is an important way to protect and restore Wisconsin’s rivers.

The federal government, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has jurisdiction over most hydroelectric dams in Wisconsin. River Alliance’s role is to leverage opportunities for restoration, mitigation, and enhancement for impacted rivers during the license renewal process. Most hydroelectric dam licenses are renewed every 40 years. When a renewal comes up, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make improvements. Improvements can include increasing recreational access (boat landings, canoe portages, signage), increasing water levels and instream flows in the river during fish spawning time, managing invasive species, and promoting upstream and downstream fish passage and helping to design such structures.

River Alliance is fortunate to have Jim Fossum as our hydroelectric consultant for this work. (Prior to this, Jim worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 26 years.)

Jim is currently assisting River Alliance with long-term hydroelectric projects on the Menominee River, the Pine River and the Lower Chippewa River. We are currently in discussions with partners about meeting the obligations set forth in the Wilderness Shores Settlement Agreement concerning the fate of the Pine Dam—specifically, will the dam be relicensed or removed. Stay tuned for updates on these projects and our continued work to protect and restore rivers impacted by dams.

Please reach out anytime with questions.
Email: [email protected]

Photo courtesy John Roberts. Breakwater Falls (Pine River Flowage). River Alliance member John Roberts has been a tireless and effective advocate for the Pine River (a State Wild River) and Breakwater Falls in Florence