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Posted In: Fishing, Paddling

Damnation: Appomattox River loses a major impediment

Andy Thompson

July 15, 2014 4:02pm
An excavator with a special "concrete muncher" attachment goes to work on the Harvell Dam.

An excavator with a special “concrete muncher” attachment goes to work on the Harvell Dam.

Around noon today I headed down to Petersburg to check out the progress on the removal of the Harvell Dam on the Appomattox River. The dam has been there since at least 1930, and for the past 20 years, Alan Weaver, fish passage coordinator for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, has been working with the owners to try to get fish, migratory fish specifically, past the dam. For the last 10 of those years, Weaver told me, the goal has been to see the dam removed.

Well, as you can see from these pictures, today was a big day for Weaver and all the other partners involved in the project.

If you were expecting to see water rushing through the breach, that hasn’t happened yet.

“The river is so low that it’s not going to be a dramatic burst of water going through because we’ve already got the water controlled through this powerhouse on the side,” Weaver said. “The river will go to the lowest point, but as far as how dramatic it will be, I don’t know.”

A before shot of the Harvell Damn from a couple of years ago. Credit: Alan Weaver/DGIF

A before shot of the Harvell Damn from a couple of years ago. Credit: Alan Weaver/DGIF

By the end of the week, however, the concrete rubble should be cleared away up and down stream of the breach, and for first time in over 80 years, the Appomattox will begin to establish a “new normal” water level in the area. Currently, the dam holds a pool about nine feet higher on the upstream side.

Come spring migratory fish, such as American and hickory shad, American eel, and river herring will find 127 miles of upstream habitat for spawning. Very cool stuff, if you ask me. (It’s a shame the old Harvell didn’t come down in time to make this documentary about dam removal.)



About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?