(Washington) – Communities in 21 states, working in partnership with non-profit organizations and state and federal agencies, removed 72 dams in 2016, restoring more than 2,100 miles of streams to benefit public safety, local economies and our nation’s natural heritage. In the past 30 years in the USA 1,173 dams have been removed .
Dams were removed in the following 21 states in 2016: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
In 2016, Pennsylvania had the highest number of removals for the fourteenth year in a row. The top three states removing outdated dams in 2016 were:
- Pennsylvania – 10 dams removed
- North Carolina – 7 dams removed
- Minnesota– 6 dams removed
“Removing outdated dams has become so popular across the country because it gives communities improved public safety, better water quality and more opportunities for local business and recreation,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers.
According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, America’s dams are degrading faster than they are being repaired, the number of high hazard dams has increased over time, and the cost to rehabilitate dams continues to rise. By 2020, seventy percent of dams in the United States will be more than 50 years old. Aging dams can pose a serious safety threat for individuals and entire communities.
“Removing a dam can save lives,” Irvin said. “Whether it’s a small dam that presents a drowning hazard to swimmers and boaters, or a old dam in disrepair that would threaten downstream communities if it failed, local leaders are looking to dam removal to address public safety hazards.”
River restoration delivers economic benefits. A 2012 study found that every $1 million spent on Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration projects resulted in 10 to 13 jobs created or maintained. A 2010 study in Oregon found that every $1 million spent on forest and watershed restoration resulted in 15-23 new jobs and $2.1-2.3 million in economic activity. The economic benefits of dam removal are summarized in a 2016 report by Headwaters Economics. See https://headwaterseconomics.org/wphw/wp-content/uploads/Report-Dam-Removal-Case-Studies.pdf
“Americans love their rivers, and dam removal is a win-win solution,” Irvin said.
American Rivers is the only organization maintaining a record of dam removals in the United States. The database includes information on 1,383 dams that have been removed across the country since 1912. Most of those dams (1,173) were removed in the past 30 years.
American Rivers played a role in 18 of the dam removals on this year’s list. The list includes all known dam removals, regardless of the extent of American Rivers’ involvement.
To accompany the 2016 list, American Rivers updated the interactive map that includes all known dam removals in the United States as far back as 1916. Visit www.AmericanRivers.org/DamRemovalsMap