Pre Dam Removal Mussel Surveys

Three low-head dams (West Milford, Highland and Two Lick Dams) on the West Fork River in Harrison County, West Virginia, were planned for removal by the Clarksburg Water Board with assistance from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). These dams were constructed in the early 1900’s for flood control and drinking water supply but no longer served their purpose and were a hazard to recreation along the river.

In September 2015, AllStar Ecology staff led efforts to relocate all live freshwater mussels from the work areas downstream of each dam. In West Virginia, all freshwater mussel species are now of conservation concern due to severe declines in their populations. In fact, freshwater mussels are the most imperiled species across the United States. With assistance from the USFWS and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR), a total of 116 freshwater mussels of eight species were collected and relocated outside of the dam work areas.

Dam Removal & Mussel Salvage

The demolition of the three dams occurred in the spring and summer of 2016. Each dam was demolished in increments so that water levels upstream receded gradually over time. This exposed 12.5 miles of river bank on the West Fork River home to freshwater mussels that were now stranded without water. AllStar Ecology, USFWS, WVDNR, and numerous other partners and volunteers used canoes with apple pickers and litter grabbers to collect stranded mussels. In total, 1,476 live freshwater mussels of eight species were relocated to newly exposed riffles within the West Fork River with help from 34 volunteers searching for a total of 646 hours.

Restoration & Future Goals

Removing the three dams opened a continuous 35 miles of river on the West Fork and returned 13.5 miles of lake type habitat to river type habitat. This will improve fish movement, sediment transport, and freshwater mussel populations and increase recreation opportunities. The project has also spurred the removal of tons of trash and litter from the areas and has lowered the cost of drinking water treatment for the City of Clarksburg.

The USFWS and its partners hope to continue river restoration on the West Fork River through additional dam removal and modifications. AllStar Ecology will continue to lead efforts to relocate freshwater mussels from work areas and along exposed banks.

The AllStar Difference

We develop mussel survey plans and conduct the necessary surveys to fulfill the needs of various industries, land managers and the scientific community. AllStar has performed hundreds of mussel surveys throughout West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for industries including oil and gas, utilities, loading and dredging facilities, municipalities, non-profits, and government agencies, etc. to meet the needs of our clients. Learn more about our mussel services by clicking here or contact us for more information.


Thanks for reading,
Brian Carlson, Environmental Scientist II/ Stream Assessment Specialist

Author: Brian Carlson

Brian Carlson is an Environmental Scientist III with AllStar Ecology, specializing in stream ecosystems and aquatic fauna. Mr. Carlson is a genus level macroinvertebrate certified taxonomist through the Society for Freshwater Science and has successfully passed taxonomy testing for freshwater mussels in West Virginia and Ohio, including endangered species. In addition, he as passed taxonomy testing for federally endangered crayfish of West Virginia. He has used his expertise in biological surveying and taxonomy to complete biological assessment reports for state and federal agencies, various private industry clients, and watershed nonprofit organizations. Mr. Carlson’s project management and reporting experience also includes water chemistry and bacteria monitoring, stream habitat assessments, and fish assemblage, benthic macroinvertebrate, and freshwater mussel surveys throughout Appalachia, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest regions.

Education: B.S., Environmental Science – The Ohio State University | M.S., Fisheries Resources – West Virginia University

Training & Certifications: West Virginia Scientific Collecting Permit | Society for Freshwater Science Certified Genus Level Taxonomist | OHEPA Level III Benthic Macroinvertebrate Biologist and Taxonomist | Certified surveyor for West Virginia Coalfields Endangered Crayfish