Elba Dam Removal Could Have Flood Prevention, Environmental Benefits, Officials Say

COFFEE COUNTY, Ala. (WDHN) –  An obsolete and potentially dangerous dam in Coffee County will soon be removed.

The Elba Hydroelectric Dam is a partially breached dam that straddles the Pea River, near County Road 411.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced the project Tuesday that would pave the way for the dam’s removal, which is part of a larger initiative.

The dam, the only barrier present along the Greater Choctawhatchee River Basin, presents barriers to migration for fish such as Gulf Sturgeons and Chinook Salmon.

It also creates a flooding risk.

“for the Elba Dam [removal], I think this is a win-win for the community and for nature,” said Mitchell Reid, Nature Conservancy Alabama director.

The dam removal is part of a $2 million project meant to remove obsolete structures from waterways.

“This will help with river flow, but it will also help with some of the endangered species that are in the river so that they can get up to the areas they need to,” said James Brown, Coffee County EMA director.

Officials say removing the sam will help improve water flow, which could open the door to recreational opportunities such as kayaking.

It will also help cities prepare against flooding.

“it will help the county with flooding, and also, it will help with recreation, and it will make the City of Elba prepared when we have large rainfall events,” said Coffee County District Five Commissioner Jimmy Jones.

According to Brown, officials will reevaluate the river’s flood potential once the dam is removed.

Floods along the Pea River are not uncommon. Flooding in 2015 caused major damage.

A start date has yet to be announced, and removing the dam might be more involved since it is on private land.

Regardless, officials are looking forward to this progress. The next step, according to Brown, is to secure grant funding for a fire rescue boat ramp.

He said, “These kinds of grants are fantastic to help more than one thing out with a little bit of money in order to increase the usage of the river.”

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