Abstract: Session A  9:30 am (Back to Session A)
Innovative Design and Funding Approaches for Dam Removal Projects Where an Unfunded Mandate Exists

Kirk Mantay, PWS
GreenTrust Alliance, Inc.  
Elkridge, MD

Authors:  Mantay, Kirk; John Roche (Maryland Department of Environment); Geoffrey Goll, PE (Princeton Hydro); Brett Berkley (GreenVest)

The Martin Dam in Fallston, Maryland was constructed in 1965 as part of USDA’s sustainable farms pond construction initiative.  The initiative promoted aquaculture and subsistence fish production on small farms across the region as an income source for agricultural producers.   Most of these ponds were less than five acres in size and were constructed in-line with existing streams and wetlands to guarantee hydrology (ponding).   Dam-related impacts were typical and included the permanent loss of spring-fed sedge wetlands, ditching of forested floodplain wetlands, pollution from stream bank entrenchment, and thermal impacts to a wild brook trout population downstream.

From 1981 to 2015, the dam increased in hazard category as inspections continued from state and local agencies.  In 2016, MDE listed the dam as a “public safety hazard at risk of imminent failure.”   The landowner, unable to fund the dam removal, contacted GreenTrust Alliance (GTA), a regional green infrastructure nonprofit organization, and sought counsel for how this might be addressed.   In November 2018, GTA was able to secure restoration funding for the site by emphasizing the ecological benefits of restored wetlands and streams above and below the dam as well as the critical public safety hazard faced by residents and motorists downstream.   The dam was safely breached as part of restoration construction in January, 2019.   

This presentation describes how partners drastically expanded the footprint of this emergency dam removal to generate enough ecological restoration benefits (uplift) to adequately fund the dam removal itself.   These include the TMDL benefits associated with restoring the stream and associated wetlands using techniques that maximize uplift and opportunities for funding. These design elements and objectives also helped to abate over a half-century of significant environmental impacts caused by the dam’s construction and operation, which were critical to project partners’ efforts at framing the overall project’s purpose and need to regulatory agencies and funding entities.   As TMDL, MS4, and other related compliance efforts continue to dominate restoration funding in our region, we anticipate that these may help provide funding to advance high quality natural resources impacted by historic dam construction and operation.