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Crews to remove 9 dams in Lehigh County

By Amy Unger, Reporter, AUnger@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 25 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 26 2013 06:10:34 PM CDT

A lot of local fishing holes are in for an upgrade, thanks to a new project spearheaded by the Wildlands Conservancy.

A lot of local fishing holes are in for an upgrade, thanks to a new project spearheaded by the Wildlands Conservancy.

"We're looking to restore the stream and create free-flowing water by removing old, obsolete dams," said Kristie Fach, director of ecological restoration at the conservancy.

Nine dams in the Little Lehigh Creek watershed in Lehigh County will be demolished: Four on Jordan Creek, and five on the Little Lehigh Creek, all within a 15 mile span in and around Allentown.

"They go all the way up to Lower Macungie Township, and also Whitehall Township," explained Fach.

Some of the dams have been around for a century. They powered mills that are now long-gone, or carved out swimming holes. But it's been a long time since they've served an actual purpose. In facts, experts say many of the dams are doing more harm than good.

"Areas that are above dams are traditionally pretty void of wildlife," said John Mikowychok, director of Allentown's Parks and Recreation Department. "Silt backs up, they're not very productive areas for fishermen."

The Wildlands Conservancy, based just outside of Emmaus, has been working to get rid of the dams for several years. Funding for the $431,000 thousand project finally came though this year. Demolition is slated to start this summer. But the project doesn't end when the dams are gone. Next year brings phase two.

"We'll go in, we'll repair the flood plain," Fach said. "We'll plant the stream banks, we'll put in fish habitat structures."

The goal is to remove all dams that no longer serve a purpose on the waterways. In the end, the dam-demolition is expected to alleviate flooding, create a safer environment for swimmers and boaters, and, of course, foster a more fish-friendly habitat. And those are results that are sure to keep fisherman hooked.