Williamsport Dam

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Williamsport Dam
Hepburn Street Dam.jpg
Hepburn Street dam as seen from the Williamsport side
Williamsport Dam is located in Pennsylvania
Williamsport Dam
Location of Williamsport Dam in Pennsylvania
Williamsport Dam is located in the United States
Williamsport Dam
Williamsport Dam (the United States)
Official nameHepburn Street Dam
CountryUnited States
LocationWilliamsport, Pennsylvania
CoordinatesCoordinates: 41°14′01″N 77°00′18″W / 41.23369°N 77.00496°W / 41.23369; -77.00496
Construction began1984
Opening date1986
Construction cost$11.9 million (2016 Dollars)
Owner(s)Pennsylvania State Government
Operator(s)Williamsport Water Authority / Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
Dam and spillways
Type of damLow head
ImpoundsWest Branch Susquehanna River
Height (foundation)7 feet (2.1 m)
Length1,015 feet (309 m)

The Williamsport Dam, officially known as the Hepburn Street Dam, is a low-head dam on the West Branch Susquehanna River in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. It broke ground in 1984 and was finished in the spring of 1986. It was built for recreation, such as boating, watersports and fishing. It has been described as a "killer dam" and a "drowning machine".[1]


Dam in 1911

The old Hepburn Street Dam (pre-1984) was made of wooden timber cribs filled with rock with a 4-inch thick wooden apron on the downstream side. The new dam, constructed in 1984–1986, was built for recreation. Before the dam was built, the average depth of the West Branch Susquehanna River was 4.6 feet, with its deepest parts being just under 10 feet deep. Some places were impassable by boat, being only a couple of feet or a few inches deep. Since the construction of the new dam, the average depth of the West Branch Susquehanna is 8.3 feet, with some depths of over 20 feet.

Hydroelectric proposal[edit]

Ever since the dam was rebuilt and updated Williamsport and county officials expressed interest in converting the low-head dam into a hydroelectric dam. Multiple companies have expressed interest in converting the dam in the past, however none have released a feasible plan to generate electricity there.

In 2016, a privately-held hydropower development company that has projects in more than a dozen states believes its patented technology will make it feasible to generate clean viable electricity at the dam. Lock + TM Hydro Friends Fund XII, part of Hydro Green Energy based in Westmont, Illinois has filed preliminary permit application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study the feasibility of its Hepburn Street Dam project. If such a permit is issued, it would give Hydro priority to file an application for a license to operate the facility.

The project would impact only 150 feet at the northern or Williamsport side of the 1,015-foot dam that is formally known as the Anthony J. Cimini Dam in memory of a late state representative. The project would include a 25-foot deep large frame module containing 10, 900-megawatt hydropower turbines. It would be installed either in the levee on the Williamsport side of the river or in the upper pool of the dam, the permit application states.

Engineering, legal and other expenses related to the feasibility study are estimated to cost $525,000, the FERC document states. The current timetable shows construction in 2018. When operational, the facility will generate an estimated 51,000 megawatts of electricity annually that will be sold to a utility or an industrial customer. A PPL substation is a short distance from the dam in Williamsport.[2]

Fish ladder[edit]

The Hepburn Street Dam has a fish ladder located on the South Williamsport side of the dam. In 2014 the fish ladder was rebuilt—it was widened because sticks and debris were becoming stuck in the ladder, and more lanes were added so that more fish would be able to use the ladder. Originally, the dam did not have a fish ladder; it was added in the early to late 1990s as a result of pressure on local officials to add the ladder for American shad.


  1. ^ "Hepburn Street dam called a 'drowning machine'". Williamsport Sun-Gazette. April 16, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2016. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  2. ^ "State-owned Susquehanna River dam at Williamsport eyed as electricity generator". Penn Live. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2017.