The Oakland Dam is removed from the North Branch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Endless Mountains Heritage Region.

Paddlers & Fish Rejoice: 750-Ft. Susquehanna River Dam Removed

By Ad Crable, Bay Journal News Service

In Pennsylvania’s largest dam removal in modern times, a 755-feet-long, 16-feet-high concrete span has been bulldozed from the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. The last of the rubble was hauled away on Sept. 21.

Local officials and environmental groups have hailed the removal of the Oakland Dam for banishing a longtime barrier to paddling and the movement of fish, water-purifying mussels and other wildlife.

“Removing a dam is the fastest, most efficient way to bring a river back to life,” said Tom Kierman, president of American Rivers, a national nonprofit that was a partner in the project. Others included the boroughs of Oakland and Susquehanna, Endless Mountains Heritage Area, Upper Susquehanna Coalition, two state agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The $450,000 demolition project was funded through grants.

The dam had blocked the river since the 1800s. It was enlarged in the 1920s to provide hydroelectric power to a nearby railyard and hospital. Shortly after the power plant closed in the late 1990s, a 100-foot breach appeared in the middle.

The dam’s removal opens up 250 miles of the river to unimpeded passage for both paddlers and wildlife. Susquehanna Borough is purchasing an acre of adjacent land to use as a riverfront park.

American Rivers lauded Pennsylvania as a leader in dam removal, saying it has removed more than any other state.

This story first appeared on on 9/25/23.