Shad Restoration and Dam Removal

On December 4, 2014, a major milestone was completed in the Shad Restoration and Dam Removal Project. After four years of feasibility and hydrological studies and sampling, the historic Byrnes Mill Dam also known as White Clay Creek Dam No. 1, located on the White Clay Creek Country Club golf course in Delaware Park, was successfully breached. The dam is the first of a number of obsolete, low, on-stream dams on the White Clay Creek slated for partial or total removal. The successful removal of Dam No. 1 in early December 2014 effectively restores approximately 3.5 miles of fish passage and habitat to the river. Striped bass, and other anadromous fish (fish that live in the ocean and breed in freshwater) including the American shad, hickory shad, and river herring will once again be able to swim freely from the Delaware Estuary into the interior of the Piedmont along the White Clay for the first time since 1777. This project also signifies the first recorded dam removal in the state of Delaware.

In order to preserve the historic and cultural integrity of the structure, only a 40 foot section of the middle of the dam was removed. Cultural surveys conducted by Delaware archeologists and historians determined that the dam was constructed between 1773-1777 by Daniel Byrnes, a prominent miller and Quaker minister in the region. Water from the two-mile long raceway provided hydro-power for an 18th century mill located near the historic Hale-Byrnes House.  Materials retrieved from the breach, including 237 year old timbers, hand forged iron spikes, as well as  hand cut stone, have been stockpiled for historic documentation and preservation by the University of Delaware’s Center for Historic Architecture and Design. Portions thereof will be preserved intact with a public education display serving to re-tell the dam’s historic past.

The University of Delaware’s Water Resources Agency has lead this project since 2010; Project partners including DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, Duffield Associates, Delaware Park, New Castle Conservation District, and the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic Management committee have worked collaboratively throughout the process. Funding support has been provided through grants by the White Clay Wild and Scenic Rivers Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the FishAmerica Foundation, NOAA, and American Rivers. Overall about $210,000 was spent in planning and removal of the dam.

The next phase of this project will take a systematic look at the subsequent dams on the White Clay Creek, considering the historic and hydrologic impacts of removing each dam while continuing to strive for fish passage at each site. There are six dams on the Delaware stretch of the White Clay and more in Pennsylvania.

To view the photo gallery of the White Clay Dam No. 1 removal click here.

Shad Restoration and Feasibility Report (June 2010)

Also, check out some of our blog posts below that track past progress of the dam, and don’t forget to check back for updates on other dam projects going forward!

Will The White Clay Run Silver Again? Return of the Shad Historic Dam Removal on the White Clay Creek!

Since our designation as a National Wild & Scenic River in 2000, we have led the effort to permanently protect nearly 2000 acres of riparian forest and open space in the White Clay watershed, and planted ### of trees.

Recognizing the impacts of land use on stream health, plants, wildlife, and recreational opportunities, a key goal of the Watershed Management Plan and the Management Committee is to preserve open space. The land preservation work in Pennsylvania is accomplished through the Open Space Subcommittee which is headed by our regional conservation partners, Natural Lands Trust and the Brandywine Conservancy.

In the first few years the Open Space Subcommittee developed a series of conservation priority maps for the Pennsylvania section of the watershed using geographical information system (GIS) data they collected.  From these maps they determined priority parcels and began landowner outreach and seeking funds for easements or purchases.  The landowner outreach and search for easement or fee simple purchase funds is on-going.

Another important avenue for open space protection in our upper watershed is offering services to municipal officials.  In October 2004 the Management Committee and the National Park Service hosted a Watershed Open Space Workshop for officials and their open space consultants from ten Chester County, Pennsylvania municipalities.  The purpose was to elicit a shared vision for inter-municipal open space and trail linkages and to discuss planning, implementation, and funding tools. Municipalities shared their current open space plans, successes, challenges, and ‘lessons learned’ and received information about programs and funding opportunities to assist in open space planning and preservation. The Open Space Subcommittee continues to work cooperatively with these municipalities.

Since there is much less privately held open space remaining in the Delaware portion of the watershed and the Delaware conservation community has historically worked together, the Management Committee’s land preservation work in the state is accomplished in cooperation with a broad Delaware-based coalition of preservation partners. Key members of that group include the Coalition for Natural Stream Valleys, White Clay Watershed Association, Delaware Nature Society, the Friends of White Clay Creek State Park, the Bi-state Preserve Council, and the CAP Council of the United Auto Workers. The group also works closely with the State of Delaware.


Why plant trees? Although the White Clay Creek watershed is a National Wild and Scenic River, over three-quarters of the stream segments are identified as impaired from nonpoint source pollution. Research shows “… that the single most important factor explaining variation in water quality in the region is the percentage of tree cover in each watershed. Therefore, in watersheds where tree cover is less than optimal, reforestation is the ‘Best Management Practice.’” *

The important role of reforestation was also recognized in the WCCWMC’s guiding document, The White Clay Creek and Its Tributaries Management Plan, and was recommended in the 2008 State of the Watershed Report prepared for the WCCWMC by the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Agency. *    Dr. Bernard Sweeney, Director of the Stroud Water Research Center, White Clay Creek Reforestation Plan, p.3.


"The Plan calls for a watershed-based reforestation campaign that is integral to sustainable watershed management. It sets a long-term minimum forest cover goal of 40%, a net increase in forest cover across the watershed of approximately 16 percent, or 6,300 acres for the Pennsylvania portion of the White Clay Creek Watershed." February 2009 Prepared by Jessie L. Benjamin of Taproot Native Design, LLC and Robert Lonsdorf of Brandywine Conservancy for the White Clay Creek Watershed Management Committee

See full report.

Plant for the Planet: Billion Trees Campaign

White Clay Creek Wild & Scenic Reforestation Project is proud to be a part of the United Nations Environment Program's Plant for the Planet - The Billion Tree Campaign - Growing Greener.

Reforesting the Watershed, One Township at a Time2009-2010

This project seeks to motivate and educate residents and municipal officials of London Grove and Franklin Townships, Chester County, Pennsylvania to reforest open space to protect water resources through an educational workshop, supporting materials, and follow up expertise to assist with future plantings of 5000 trees within the two municipalities. The project is being funded by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania Citizen Education Fund through a Section 319 Federal Clean Water Act grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administered by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the E. Kneale Dockstader Foundation, and the National Park Service's Partner Wild and Scenic River Program.