Reporting Alex DeMetrick
HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — It’s outlived its usefulness but not its ability to kill. It’s the Bloede Dam on the Patapsco River.
Alex DeMetrick reports millions of dollars are now being channeled into removing the dam.
The Bloede Dam was built in 1906, tapping the Patapsco’s water to power a mill in Howard County. That use ended long ago.
“The dam is no longer needed for its primary purpose, removing it has been on the table,” said Doug Meyer, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
A nearly $4 million federal grant may just make that happen, removing the lowermost dam on the river–as well as a deadly lure. In the past 20 years, five people have drowned in the dam. The most recent was earlier this month.
“If you get caught, you can’t get out. There’s just too much water for you to overcome, even if you’re a strong swimmer,” said Natural Resources Police Lt. Joe Offer.
Removing the dam will do a lot more than just making it safer for people.
“Most species that live in rivers don’t just stay in one place. They move up and down with different seasons, different flow patterns,” Meyer said.
At large dams like the Conowingo, expensive fish-lifting operations try to make up for the free movement that’s been lost on the Susquehanna. But it’s not only what swims upstream that’s important.
Meyer has worked on dam removals in the Pacific northwest and says sediment, gravel and even plants and insects must flow downstream.
“Having free movement across the whole available landscape is going to improve both the diversity and the biological health of those rivers,” he said.
That means a healthier Patapsco, and a safer one.
No date has yet been set to remove the Bloede Dam, but once it’s gone, it will open up 44 miles of the Patapsco River to spawning fish.