Progress toward this outcome is measured against a 2011 baseline of 2,510 stream miles open to the migration of fish. Between 2012 and 2017, 1,236 additional miles were opened to fish passage, surpassing the 1,000-mile goal.

Interactive Chart

Stream Miles Opened to Fish Passage (Cumulative) (2012-2017)

Interactive Map

Streams Opened to Fish Passage (1989-2017)

Of the miles opened to fish passage between 2012 and 2017, 52 percent (or 648 miles) are located in Pennsylvania and 46 percent (or 565 miles) are located in Virginia. The remaining 22.6 miles are located in Maryland.

Since this outcome’s mileage target was set in 2014—to mimic the fish passage goal stated in Chesapeake Bay Executive Order 13508 of 2010—experts have developed a more accurate method of calculating the stream miles opened to fish passage following the removal of a dam or other barrier. This method uses the Chesapeake Fish Passage Prioritization Tool to map and count the available upstream miles located between a removed blockage and the waterway’s headwaters or the next blockage that is in place. The prioritization tool is also used to assess potential projects.

Because this outcome’s mileage target was set under a previous method of calculation, it is an unfit benchmark against which to measure progress. While much of the “low-hanging fruit” with regards to dam removal has been picked, our partners will continue to open stream miles to access by migratory fish. Opportunities to restore fish passage through the retrofitting or removal of culverts—in addition to the removal of dams—are also being investigated.

Dams, culverts and other barriers inhibit stream flow, limit stream habitat and block migratory fish from reaching their spawning grounds. Removing these barriers can restore water flow, reduce sediment build-up and allow shad, herring and other migratory species to move between fresh- and saltwater habitats.

Management Strategy

To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:

  • Restoring historical fish migration routes by removing dams and opening streams to the movement of fish;
  • Documenting the return of fish to opened streams by establishing the presence or absence of target species (i.e., alewife, blueback herring, American shad, hickory shad, American eel and/or brook trout) at a select number of projects within the Chesapeake Bay watershed; and
  • Using the Chesapeake Bay Fish Passage Prioritization Tool to implement high-priority dam removal and fish passage projects.

Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through data related to the number of stream miles opened each year (with a target of 132 miles opened every two years) and the presence of target species at restoration sites.

As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in August of 2019.

Logic & Action Plan

Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.

Completed actions from this outcome's Logic & Action Plan include:

  • In 2016, The Nature Conservancy launched the Chesapeake Bay Fish Passage Prioritization Tool to help natural resource managers identify the fish passage restoration projects that would most benefit migratory and resident fish. The tool also allows users to develop custom management scenarios and model the potential effects of a fish passage restoration projects at a given dam.
  • In May 2017, the Fish Passage Workgroup gained formal Chesapeake Bay Program acceptance of the methodology behind the “miles opened” metric to support its definition of an upstream functional network.
  • In February and October of 2017, partners held the first and second meetings of the Pennsylvania Aquatic Connectivity Team.
  • Partners have supported the removal of the Centreville Dam along a tributary to the Corsica River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Monumental Mills Dam along Hazel River in Culpepper County, Virginia. In addition, six dams have been removed in Pennsylvania: Dugan Run, Wildcat Run, the Camp Michaux Lower Dam, the Eckenrode Mills Dam, the Mountain Springs Dam 2 and the Solomons Creek Dam.

Participating Partners

The Vital Habitats Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Sustainable Fisheries and Healthy Watersheds goal implementation teams.

Participating partners include:

  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources (State of Maryland)
  • University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (State of Maryland)
  • Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)
  • Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (Commonwealth of Virginia)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • American Rivers
  • Chesapeake Bay Trust
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center