Closing Plenary   9:30 am  (BACK)
Friday, September 25

Dam Removal in the Mid-Atlantic: Regional Trends in Removal and Science

Laura Craig
American Rivers
Philadelphia, PA

Serena McClain, Director, River Restoration Program
American Rivers
Washington, DC

Over the last several decades, dam removal has become an increasingly common approach for restoring rivers. While some of the more than 80,000 dams in the United States play an important role in water supply, flood control, and irrigation, many no longer serve the original purpose for which they were built, are poorly maintained, and are good candidates for removal. For dams that still provide a specific function, the benefits of that structure may no longer outweigh the impacts to fisheries and river habitat. Dam removal can provide a variety of ecological benefits including restoration of free-flowing conditions, improved lotic habitat, enhanced connectivity for movement of resident and migratory fauna, and recovery of natural sediment and nutrient processes. Dam removal projects also provide opportunities to enhance riparian corridors and re-establish floodplain connectivity, eliminate safety hazards and liability concerns, and provide new recreational opportunities. American Rivers has documented the removal of more than 1,200 dams across the United States and maintains an interactive map of known projects. The interactive map provides both a tool for river advocates and a lens through which to view the cumulative effect of dam removal as a river management tool.

This presentation will 1) review patterns of dam removal rates and geography over time and discuss trends in the context of river restoration and fisheries management in the Mid-Atlantic; 2) identify opportunities to facilitate additional removals; 3) provide an overview and synthesis of published dam removal science, including an examination of the ecological impact of removal on biotic and abiotic response variables, and 4) acknowledge gaps in our collective understanding of the impact of dam removal on river ecosystems and identify research needs for advancing the practice of dam removal.