The event was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) and Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy (PWC)
Speakers made presentations and took questions on diverse subjects such as the economic, social, environmental and technical effects of both preserving and removing dams.
"What we had hoped by advancing the state of information so that people could take positions and make decisions with a good amount of information has advanced tremendously," said Preston Luitweiler, a resident of Audubon and the chairman of PWC.
According to Scott Carney, of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the state is home to 4,000 rapidly aging and primarily smaller scale dams. Many of those dams were constructed for water power, transportation, industrial and water supply, flood control, water-based recreation and storm water retention.
Many of those structures, which once totaled 13,000, are in serious disrepair and have outlived their usefulness, said Carney.
The public owns 24 percent of Pennsylvania dams, 74 percent are controlled privately and 2 percent are "orphan" dams with no identifiable owner.
Since 1995 less than 100 dams have been permitted for removal while an additional 10 to 15 new dams are constructed each year.
Rebecca Brown of the Academy of Natural Sciences took a close look at the ecological impact of dams. Sediment tends to spread through a watershed when a dam is removed and there is often a streamwide change in water temperature.
Biological impacts such as new and diverse plant life are created and fish that might not have spawned farther up a stream as long as a dam blocked their way might now have a clear channel upstream.
Lou Wentz attended the workshop and is a member of Perkiomen Valley Trout Unlimited. A self-described passionate fisherman, Wentz said that he attended to get more information and to convey Trout Unlimited's concern about the effects of dams. He said that Trout Unlimited had worked on storm restoration and fencing in cattle that are near the Upper Perkiomen Creek.
He said that the cumulative, multiple effect of 37 dams had "virtually ruined" the Unami Creek as a cold water system.
The merits of dams are often controversial because they are often an areawide focal point, removal represents change, sometimes there is connecting infrastructure, dams are perceived as being beneficial and the public has limited knowledge.
Sweet Arrow Lake Conservation Association's Denise Donmoyer then discussed the rebuilding of the Sweet Arrow Lake Dam which is owned by Schuylkill County. The dam was rebuilt at a cost of $1.2 million and expanded recreation options. She said that the lake and the area surrounding it support a viable ecosystem and very extensive wildlife habitat.