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After 110 years, the Bloede Dam is going away for good

Posted at 2:52 PM, Sep 05, 2018

The Bloede Dam has been standing for more than a century, and now its place along the Patapsco River is about to be returned to nature.

Originally built in 1907 as the first underwater hydroelectric dam in the world, several local, state, and federal agencies have different plans for the dam.

Now, the dam's days are numbered as it's about to be blown up.

"We’ll bring equipment out and it will mechanically eat away at the dam, so with a hammer, it will bust the dam into small pieces, and then we’ll take the pieces out of the river, and load them offsite," explained Mary Andrews, an engineer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

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The Bloede Dam became useless as a source of power for the area after its first 20 years, but many say the negative impact its had on the surrounding environment for the last 90 years is why it has to go.

By removing this dam, fish and wildlife vital to the Chesapeake Bay will hopefully flourish. Officials say this removal will restore more than 65 miles of habitat for blueback herrings, alewives, American shad, and hickory shad in the watershed, as well as more than 183 miles for American eels.

And the benefits go beyond wildlife. It will create a better environment for swimmers, boaters, anglers and other visiters at the Patapsco Valley State Park. Because while the cascading water looks inviting, the dam also can be deadly. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says there have been several deaths in the dam, most recently in 2015. 

In addition to saving wildlife and lives, taxpayers are also benefiting from the dam removal. Officials say it would have cost at least $1 million to repair the dam to comply with Maryland dam safety requirements.

And once the Bloede Dam is gone for good, there's hope for something better.

"As a Marylander, I am particularly excited about this. I have had the good fortune to fly fish this river, both below the dam, and above the dam, and I can tell you, I can’t wait until next summer when I get to come back here, and fish this stretch again," said Bob Irvin, the President of American Rivers.

Following the initial blast of explosives to breach the fam, crews will continue to work on the project for the next three months. The area will remain closed to the public until July 2019.

The entire project is expected to cost $17.3 million.