The Finesville Dam, which spanned the Musconetcong River from Pohatcong Township, Warren County to Holland Township, Hunterdon County was removed in November 2011. This dam was the lowest blockage on the river (after the Riegelsville Dam) and removal now provides access to 2.4 miles of historic river herring spawning and nursery habitat. The dam removal included excavation, removal of debris, and 450 linear feet of stabilization of the upstream channel.
The removal took place over the course of a week beginning on November 10th, 2011, but the process leading up to the removal took four years, including a Feasibility Study, an Environmental Assessment, many public meetings and a special agreement with the NJ State Historic Preservation office. Like the Riegelsville removal which took place over the summer of 2011, an archaeologist was onsite during the removal process to document any findings of historical significance.
The Finesville Dam was a nine-foot high, 109-foot long concrete dam built in 1952. The earliest Finesville Dam was originally built around 1751 to power an iron forge; later dams were rebuilt several times on the same site.
Like other dams removed by the MWA and partners, this removal was initiated by the property owner. All of the dams on the Musconetcong River are obsolete, none of them produce power and none of them were ever designed to attenuate floodwaters. They are a liability for those who own them. When a dam owner decides to pursue removal there is financial assistance available from many originations working to restore our nation's rivers.
MWA and funders, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), US Fish & Wildlife (USF&W), American Rivers, National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Watershed Institute and Conservation Resources Inc. worked over four years with local residents and stakeholders from both Holland and Pohatcong Townships.
The Musconetcong River Restoration Partnership (MRRP) received the national 2012 Coastal America Partnership Award for the Finesville Dam Removal project!
The Musconetcong Watershed Association is a member of the MRRP. The Coastal America Partnership Award is the highest level award for environmental partnership efforts. This award from the office of the President of the United States recognizes outstanding collaborative, multi-agency and multi-stakeholder efforts that leverage and combine resources to accomplish coastal restoration, preservation, protection, and education projects of national significance. Only a handful of awardees are named each year.
Why remove dams?
Public Safety: The Finesville Dam has already proven fatal. In 1989, a 29-year-old man lost his life when his canoe went over the dam and in 2003, following a heavy rainfall, a 58-year-old man who was kayaking lost his life in the hydraulic roller effect at the Finesville Dam. Dams on the Musky and other rivers present hazards to paddlers and anglers.
Fish Passage: Removal of the Finesville Dam, the first obstruction upstream of the river's confluence with the Delaware River was critical to reestablishing migratory fish passage on the Musconetcong River. There is a need to restore the connectivity of the Musconetcong River for the benefit of aquatic species including native diadromous fish species (such as American eels), and to improve habitat for other native and naturalized fish populations such as trout and bass.
Flooding: The dam at Finesville, like most other dams on the Musconetcong River, raised the hydraulic level of the River during flood events, increasing the vulnerability of local lands to flooding. The dam pool or mill pond occupies part of the natural floodplain of the river. Dam removal creates access to flood plain area and allows the river to swell considerably during heavy rains before it begins to reach homes. According to a 2009 feasibility study done by Princeton Hydro there will be as much as 1.73 foot decrease in the flood depth for a 10 year flood and 0.71 foot decrease in the flood depth for a 100 year flood.