American Rivers Note Removal of 64 Outdated Dams

American Rivers recently released its list of 64 dams in 14 states that have been removed or are slated for removal in 2008. Thanks to the removal of these outdated dams, communities in California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin will enjoy better water quality, improved public safety and flood protection, and more abundant fish and wildlife.

A list of these projects is available at: www.americanrivers.org/2008DamRemovals.

For more than 10 years, American Rivers has led a national effort to restore rivers through removing dams that no longer make sense. This effort has enabled a gradual shift in society’s view of dams, and dramatically increased consideration of dam removal as a reasonable and beneficial option for restoring rivers.

“When we tear down old infrastructure like obsolete dams, we build up our natural infrastructure – the streams, wetlands, and floodplains that give our communities essential services like clean water, flood protection, and other economic benefits,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.

While some dams are beneficial to society, many have outlived their usefulness and often do more harm than good. Some dams increase flood risks for communities, and old or poorly maintained dams are at risk of failure. According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, there are 10,213 high hazard potential dams across the United States that would pose a threat to human life if they were to fail.

Even small dams can pose a risk to anglers, paddlers, swimmers, and children playing nearby. These dams, with deadly recirculating currents that can appear immediately downstream, have been given the macabre nickname “drowning machines.”

Dams can also harm water quality, block migrating fish and wildlife, and limit river recreation opportunities.

Maxwell Pond Dam on New Hampshire’s Black Brook (a tributary of the Merrimack River), which is slated for removal this fall, is one example of a project that will have many benefits for the community. The city of Manchester, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and other partners are taking steps to remove this outdated dam and restore eight miles of free-flowing river for alewife, blueback herring, Atlantic salmon, and other migratory fish. The city is planning a major park revitalization effort in anticipation of the new free-flowing stream. The stream restoration project will improve overall water quality and get Black Brook removed from the state’s “impaired waters” list.

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