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Exeter River Lives Free Again

Hundreds of river herring are swimming past a former dam in New Hampshire—the first sign that last year’s dam removal was a success. In 2015, the Town of Exeter, New Hampshire received $610,000 from NOAA to remove the Exeter River Great Dam. The removal was completed last year, reopening 21 miles of the Exeter River to fish migration.

The river and its tributaries have been returned to their original, free-flowing condition. Now, migrating herring and American eels can swim past the former dam to upstream habitat.

River herring are food for larger commercial and recreational fish. They support commercial and recreational fisheries along the Atlantic coast like striped bass, cod, and tuna. Today, these populations are at historic low levels due to habitat degradation, fishing impacts, and reduced access to spawning habitat. When river herring populations increase, other fish populations benefit as well.

But that’s not the only benefit: removing the dam helps improve water quality and eliminates the cost of maintaining the dam.

Habitat restoration projects like these also strengthen coastal communities and ecosystems. Removing the Exeter Dam has already reduced flooding from coastal storms and increased foot traffic in the downtown area. Both the depth and severity of flooding has been reduced across almost 1,000 acres in Exeter, just by removing the dam. Improving the health and safety of coastal areas makes our nation stronger and our economy more secure.

Posted June 1, 2017
Restoration Center staff biologists find American eels already using the channel during construction