Sunbury, Pa. — A new fish passage is planned for Shikellamy State Park’s Adam T. Bower Memorial Dam, benefiting American shad and eels that use the area during migration.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is spearheading the $3.3 million project, which is expected to be completed by the fall of 2023. Park officials said the 2023 boating season will operate May to October without any interruptions.
The dam, when inflated, creates the 3,000-acre Lake Augusta for the annual summer boating season. A fish passage will provide a much-needed pathway for aquatic life to safely migrate around the dam during that time of year, according to DCNR.
“When completed, this project will help us better balance our stewardship of this important natural resource and the fish that will be able to safely pass through the area,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, who visited the site on Nov. 14.
“Thanks to the Department of General Services, our park and facilities and design staff for their work to make this important project a reality.”
The fish passage will create a 900-foot-long stream on the western shoreline of the dam, between the dam itself and the Shamokin Dam borough-owned Fabridam Park.
When Lake Augusta is at its full pool depth, water will pass around the dam structure through the stream. The slope throughout the passage will create approximately 10 feet in elevation, allowing aquatic life to pass over the dam and into Lake Augusta freely and safely.
“As it stands, species such as shad and eels already have a tough time navigating their way upriver due to the presence of so many dams.”
— PF&BC’s Mike Parker
Shad numbers in Pennsylvania have faced challenges in recent years in both the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers. In 2020, restrictions enacted during the
pandemic temporarily closed the fish passage operations at the Conowingo
Dam, which is downriver from Shikellamy State Park.
American shad had no way to move up the Susquehanna River during the peak of
their spring spawning run due to the fish passage closure, and only 485
shad were counted passing through the area that year – down from the
approximately 6,000 that would’ve passed through in a normal year.
“As it stands, species such as shad and eels already have a tough time
navigating their way upriver due to the presence of so many dams,” said
Mike Parker, communications director for the Pennsylvania Fish &
“Fish passages like this will certainly help that journey, so we’re excited to see it completed next fall.”
The fish passage will be created out of rock rip rap material, and it will
be approximately 35 feet wide and 5 feet deep during normal operation.
Within the passage, there will be a series of four deeper pools that
will assist the upstream movement of aquatic life.
The downstream entrance of the fish passage is located approximately 130 feet below the dam. Along the downstream side of the fish passage there will be a walking path that
will serve as the bank to the fish passage, as well as pedestrian access
to the river for recreational purposes.
The inflatable dam is the longest of its type in North America and is
located in the largest watershed of the east coast, the Susquehanna
Shikellamy State Parks lies on the Susquehanna River and features a marina and
boat launch, hiking and biking trails, and an overlook of the river.
Parker said the Fish & Boat Commission will work closely with DCNR as
construction of the fish passage progresses to determine how it will
impact angler and boater access to the river.
“There are regulations that restrict fishing within a certain area of a fish
passage, so it will be our job to make sure anglers are aware of any
changes when this structure is complete,” Parker said.