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Resolution to make way for dam removal in Brandywine moves through Wilmington City Council committee

Jon Hurdle
Delaware Public Media

A City of Wilmington resolution that would pave the way for the removal of a dam on the Brandywine moves through the Public Works and Transportation Committee.

The resolution seeks approval for a construction easement to give state contractors and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the access needed to take down Dam 6 in the Brandywine.

Dam removal is part of Brandywine River Restoration Trust’s mission to restore shad migration in the Delaware portion of the lower Brandywine.

Trust co-founder Jim Shanahan presented the benefits of the dam’s removal to the committee on Wednesday night – including restoring the American Shad population.

“And along with this, it increases ecological diversity up and down the food chain," Shanahan says. "The American eagles come and feed on shad, shad bring out mussels up and down the river to create mussel colonies to clean the river, and that helps to improve the water, it lowers the water temperature, and increases recreational use.”

The resolution was tabled last month due to a large influx of concerned calls from citizens claiming they were unaware of the dam removal projects, despite several dams being removed in the last decade.

Others argue the dams have historical significance, and should remain.

Hagley Museum Executive Director Jill MacKenzie did not say specifically whether she supports the removal of Dam 6, which the resolution would essentially green-light. She does note that Hagley was a founding member of the Brandywine River Restoration Trust, with the understanding that the trust’s mission was to “study the dams on the river to find the most responsible way to restore Shad to the Brandywine while keeping our historic dams at Hagley intact.”

“It was our understanding with them that this did not mean taking all the dams along the Brandywine down, but instead looking at them one at a time," MacKenzie says. "And we trust that that is still going to happen."

She also adds that Hagley uses water power from the Brandywine dams to power their electric shuttle bus.

Spokespeople and legal counsel for Capano Residential also expressed disapproval for the removal of dams in the Brandywine, claiming there is “no scientific evidence” to support it.

But water department officials and other experts say the dams no longer serve a purpose, and instead pose flood risks. DuPont Experimental Station Site leader Vere Archibald, says they strongly support the removal of the dam.

“It is a situation that we monitor every heavy rainfall," Archibald says. "And we then have to spend significant sums of money with the corresponding cleanup.”

Council will hear the resolution for a final reading and vote on February 1.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.