RIVERS NETWORK (www.irn.org)
Dams in 16 States to be removed in 2002
rivers through dam removal picks up steam -- more states
removing more dams
Elizabeth Maclin, Eric Eckl
dams in 15 states and the District of Columbia are
scheduled for removal in the 2002 calendar year--the
most since American Rivers began conducting its annual
survey in 1999. Warm weather and low water are conducive
to these projects and many removal efforts will be
getting underway in coming weeks.
nation's aging dam infrastructure, combined with a
growing appreciation of the ecological impacts of dams
is the impetus behind this burgeoning dam removal
movement. About 40 dams have been removed since 1999
when the breaching of Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec
River captured national attention. Another milestone was
reached in October of 2001, when conservationists
celebrated the completion of a series of dam removals
that restored 115 miles of the Wisconsin’s Baraboo
River, the longest stretch of river ever returned to
free flowing condition in America.
an exciting trend for our nation’s rivers,"
explained Elizabeth Maclin, director of American Rivers'
Rivers Unplugged Program. "The number of voluntary
dam removals is clearly accelerating as the word gets
out about the ecological and economic benefits."
Rivers' efforts to help communities remove dams that no
longer make sense
dams slated for removal this year represent just a tiny
fraction of the dams in place across the country. There
are approximately 75,000 dams greater than 6 feet high
and countless smaller obstructions. The vast majority
were built for purposes such as running mills,
controlling floods, and to create municipal and
agricultural water supplies. Less than 3 percent
dams can provide valuable services, they come at a
price--dams drown valuable habitat under reservoirs,
block the annual migrations of fish, and can create
downstream conditions inhospitable for fish and
wildlife. As dams age, their benefits often diminish
while maintenance costs and safety hazards increase. The
National Inventory of Dams shows 30 percent of America's
dams are now 50 years or older. In fact, the American
Society of Civil Engineers gave dams a grade of
"D" in their 2001 report card for America’s
Infrastructure -citing age, down-stream development, dam
abandonment, and lack of funding for dam safety
dams have outlived their intended purpose and no longer
provide any economic benefit," said Leon Szeptycki,
Eastern Conservation Director for Trout Unlimited.
"Many communities have looked at their local dams
and realized the dams provide virtually no benefits.
Communities that do look at dam removal soon learn that
a healthy river can enhance quality of life and be a
tremendous economic asset."
that choose to pull out obsolete dams enjoy once again
the benefits provided by healthy free flowing
rivers--better water quality, revitalized fisheries, new
recreational opportunities, and recovery of habitat
suitable for parks and other public use. These benefits
become even more attractive once the costs of renovating
aging dams are considered. For example, it would have
cost $400,000 to repair Deerskin Dam on the Deerskin
River in Wisconsin. Instead, the community chose to
remove it in 2000 at a cost of just $15,000.
Wisconsin, dam removal is, on average, three to five
times less expensive than dam repair. And if you're a
small town or an individual owner, that price difference
can be the straw that breaks the dam's back," said
Helen Sarakinos, Small Dams Program Manager for the
River Alliance of Wisconsin.
Rivers, Trout Unlimited, and River Alliance of Wisconsin
all provide educational, technical, and financial
assistance to communities that are considering or have
committed to removing a dam it no longer needs.