Resource ChallengeFour aged, unsafe, and uneconomical dams blocked fish movement, damaged water quality, and endangered river users on the 128 mile
River mainstem. Dams had first been erected in those locations before
Wisconsin became a state but no longer produced meaningful benefits to their owners. Public sentiment against dam removal was overcome by private purchase of mill and dam and the strength of a quick-moving and motivated set of private and public partners.
Examples of Key PartnersSand County Foundation, Wisconsin River Alliance, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, municipal dam owners, private dam owners, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Sauk County, Alliant Energy, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, and municipalities of Baraboo and LaValle.
Results and AccomplishmentsWith willing sellers at each dam and commitment for partners to support each other all dams were removed by 2001. The river continues to improve in fish species and water quality. Sediment transport issues have been resolved, the river was removed from the list of
Wisconsin impaired waters, more than a dozen native fish species returned to their ancestral river habitats, dam owners have been spared huge rebuilding expenses, people are no longer being killed in accidents at the dam sites, and riverside community economies have been revitalized. Public sentiment has become overwhelmingly favorable.
Partners successfully integrated issues of human safety, leading-edge science, municipal expenditures, economic activity, water quality, and native fish migration and re-colonization of hundreds of miles of tributary streams blocked for decades. This sets a new and higher standard for river recovery by multiple dam removal.