CUMBERLAND COUNTY - The Roaring River dam's removal has proven to be successful in creating a better place for fish.
The low-head dam, located in Jackson County, was removed in August. It was roughly 220 feet across and 15 feet tall. It was the largest dam of its kind to ever be removed for river or stream restorative purposes in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Jack Swearengin has over 30 years of fisheries work under his belt and is a lifelong resident of the county. He says he knows what the river was like before the low-head dam was built and he knows what the removal will mean for fish populations.
The failing dam was eroding and posed a safety hazard. Instead of rebuilding, TWRA along with several partnering agencies removed the structure, knowing the outcome would prove ecologically beneficial.
Swearengin was 16-years-old when construction on the dam was completed in 1976.
“We used to go look at the construction progress every day, just for something to do,” he said.
According to the TWRA, the Cordell Hull Dam was completed prior to the building of the Roaring River low head dam, which was considered an extension of this larger dam project.
“We know better now. Suckers, chubs and other rough fish are an integral part of an ecosystem. Young fish and fish eggs are a food source for many other species. Older fish are not only fun to catch; they can be a food source for humans too,” Swearengin said.
The dam's removal will allow fish to move upstream.
“A fish naturally wants to move upstream. The dam stopped them and concentrated them in one area. Anglers liked this. However, it wasn’t always the best for fish. Now, fish will naturally move to other pockets along the shore providing better opportunities over a longer stretch of water.” Swearengin continued, “I am more than confident the number of fish will increase upstream from the dam sight.”
According to the TWRA, Studies will continue in the area and Swearengin will be a part of those studies.
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