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Wilmington City Council passes resolution to clearing the way for dam removal on the Brandywine

Jon Hurdle
Delaware Public Media

Wilmington City Council passes a resolution that greenlights a dam removal project on the Brandywine River.

The resolution passes after being tabledand sent back to committee in December due to opposition from some real estate management companies and residents.

Several residents who live at Brandywine Falls voiced concerns Thursday night, claiming nearby residents were not notified of the dam removal projects.

They claim the "Section 106" process was not properly carried out, which is the section of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 that requires federal agencies to consider their effects on historic properties during project planning for any federal undertaking or permitted activity. This includes projects that are funded by federal money through state or local governments or private groups.

Brandywine River Restoration Trust co-founder Jim Shanahan says most residents are protesting a dam unrelated to this resolution.

“The residents of the Brandywine Falls development, the people who are here tonight, have been protesting the potential removal of a dam that they live by," Shanahan says. "What we are here to talk about tonight and what we are asking the council to vote on is a resolution to provide temporary easement for a removal of Dam 6, which these people do not live by and cannot even see.”

Shanahan adds that while some dams will be, and have already, been removed, the trust is helping preserve their history through a website, signage along the Brandywine, and publishing literature on the dams, including a 260-page document by UD’s Center for Historic Architecture and Design that talks about each Dam.

History aside, other experts cited safety issues as a reason to support the resolution, noting substantial flooding events caused by the dam, including during Hurricane Ida.

Vere Archibald is the site leader at the Dupont Experimental Station and explains the dam poses serious safety risks.

“It has caused flooding on our campus, a significant amount of flooding that we then have to clean up, so we strongly support the resolution to remove Dam 6," Archibald says.

A resident from the 11th Street Bridge, Tamika Brooks Collick, recounts the flooding in the area during Hurricane Ida in September 2021 and notes that two and a half years later, many still have not recovered.

“By 8 a.m. some of us were standing on our decks, we didn’t see waterfalls, we didn’t see dams, we saw six to seven feet of water covering our cars, our yards, our homes," Collick says. "We and the 11th Street Bridge community desire to live in a safe and secure environment.”

Brian Winslow is Watershed Conservation Director for the Brandywine/Red Clay Alliance, an organization working to restore the Brandywine to a swimmable, fishable, and drinkable river since 1945.

Winslow urged council members to “follow the science on this issue.”

“We know that removing dams increases biological diversity of the stream," Winslow says. "We know that removing dams reduces flooding and makes rivers safer for recreation, and we know that removing dams is the most economical way, its much than maintaining or replacing a dam.”

Colin O’Mara, former DNREC Secretary, current CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, and a potential candidate for Delaware Governor, also spoke virtually at the meeting in support of the resolution and the removal of the dam, noting efforts to remove dams are happening nationwide and nationally, are a bipartisan priority.

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.