PROPONENTS OF THE REMOVAL of Embrey dam on the Rappahannock river in the state of Virginia, US, say the removal of the structure will not cause an increase in the likelihood of flooding at the historic cities of Falmouth and Fredericksburg. The removal of the dam is now expected to commence in 2004, with federal funding provided in this year’s budget.

The 6.7m high, 326.1m wide dam was originally constructed in 1910 for the development of hydro power. The City of Fredericksburg owns the dam, which was acquired in 1968 from the Virginia Electric Power Company (VEPCO).

A wooden crib dam (built in the late 1800’s) lies buried in the sediment just upstream of Embrey dam. The crib dam also served as a water diversion for Fredericksburg’s hydroelectric facility.

Embrey dam was constructed to increase the level of backwater and provide more hydroelectric power. A gated canal (VEPCO Canal) receives flow from the dam’s backwater. Power was produced at a generating station 3.2km down the canal, where it reconnects with the river. The generation of hydro power was discontinued in the late 1960’s.

The existing dam prevents the access of migratory fish to over 112km of historically verified spawning ground in the mainstem Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers – and perhaps an additional 160.9km of spawning habitat on tributaries.

Because shad and herring are not highly adept at jumping, the state of Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has concluded that a new fish ladder at Embrey would not be effective in conveying shad over the dam. In 1998, a study of fish passage options for the dam was conducted by DGIF and later by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which recommended the best option was dam removal.
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