Monday, February 23, 2004, a 100-foot section of the Embrey Dam on
the Rappahannock River was breached.
of the Breaching
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breaching was an important first step toward complete removal,
to be accomplished by spring 2006. Breaching the dam will
reopen 106 miles of historical spawning habitat on the
Rappahannock and its tributaries to a number of species
including American shad, blueback herring, alewife, hickory
shad, and striped bass.
history of Embrey Dam
Embrey Dam, 22
feet high, was constructed in 1910, replacing a crib dam dating
back to 1853. Until recently, the dam provided water to a
Virginia Electric Power Company power station as well as supplied
water for the city of Fredericksburg by way of a historic navigational canal.
With the dam in place, the Rappahannock River
is impassible above Fredericksburg to anadromous fishes during
their annual voyage from the Chesapeake Bay, causing many miles of
potential spawning habitat to be lost.
a timeline of
efforts that led to removal
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removal of the dam important?
monitoring indicates that shad and herring populations in Virginia
are severely depressed. The total number of pounds of American shad caught in
the James, Rappahannock, and York Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay declined
sharply from 8 million pounds in 1900 to a mere 5,000 pounds in 1990, due in part to
loss of spawning habitat caused by dam construction.
Dam will reopen 71 miles of the mainstem Rappahannock River and 35
miles of the Rapidan River, a major tributary, for a total of 106
miles of historically known spawning and rearing habitat for
migratory shad and herring. Several additional miles on smaller
tributaries will also be accessible. Anadromous fish populations
may eventually return to, or near, historic levels with fish
passage, supplemental stocking, and a harvest moratorium all
contributing to the recovery.
increase will have important recreational and commercial
impacts. Many of these species also contribute to the food
chain as forage for predatory fish and provide a marine-based
energy source to freshwater systems. The catadromous American eel
(opposite of anadromous) and other migrants such as striped bass
will benefit too.
Rappahannock River is one of Virginia's top destinations for
smallmouth bass angling, canoeing and camping along an almost
completely unspoiled historical river corridor. Virginia
designates the Rappahannock River as a "State Scenic
River". About 24,000 angler visits totaling nearly
100,000 hours of fishing pressure are accommodated annually above
Fredericksburg and Embrey Dam.
from other fish passage projects
Bosher's Dam on the James River in Richmond was equipped with a
vertical slot fishway. Fish counts taken by VDGIF show that,
by opening some 137 miles of historic spawning habitat on the
James, American shad passings increased steadily from 185 in
1999 to 1066 in 2002.
vs. New Migratory Fish Habitat Map
Resolution PDF (1.2 MB)
KB - will launch in a new window)
Corps of Engineers - Norfolk District
Bay Program (EPA)
Fish and Wildlife Service
of the Rappahannock