The removal of the former hydro power dam, which no longer generates electricity, will allow species of migratory fish – like the American shad – access to some 160km of upper river spawning grounds for the first time since 1853 and help the rejuvenation of fish populations in the Rappahannock and Chesapeake Bay.

A series of detonations is to take place on 23 February under the supervision of the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Air Force Reserve.

The news will be welcomed by recreational users, who will have better access to the river, and by environmental groups which have been pressing for the dam’s removal since the 1980s. The work will also save dam-owner the city of Fredericksburg substantial repair and maintenance costs it would otherwise have to spend on the dam.