20 Years of Dam Removal Projects

Dam removal has its benefits, according to the example set by a particularly historic dam removal in the United States, which took place on July 1, 1999.

2 minute read

July 2, 2019, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Kennebec River

The Kennebec River runs free past the city of Augusta, Maine, former location of the Edwards Dam. | Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

The first time the federal government ordered the removal of dam removed happened 20 years ago on the Kennebec River in Maine.

The reason for the removal of the Edwards Dam, according to an article by Amy Souers Kober: the dam's costs outweighed its benefits.

Souers Kober celebrates that historic milestone in water infrastructure and river restoration by cataloguing some of the country's greatest dam removal successes in the ensuing decades—and there were plenty of options to choose from, especially of late.

"According to the dam removal database maintained by American Rivers, 1,605 dams have been removed in the U.S. since 1912," according to the article. "Most of these (1,199) have occurred since the removal of Edwards Dam in 1999. The year with the most dam removals was 2018 (99 dams removed). 2017 was the second most productive year, with 91 dams removed."

For records of success, Souers Kober doesn't have to look beyond that first example: "Our partners at the Natural Resources Council of Maine report that since Edwards Dam was removed on July 1, 1999, tens of millions of alewives, blueback herring, striped bass, shad, and other sea-run fish have traveled up the Kennebec River, past the former Edwards Dam, which blocked upstream passage since 1837.  Abundant osprey, bald eagles, sturgeon and other wildlife have also returned."

But the article doesn't stop with that first example, surveying the nation's regions for more recent examples of design removal success. American Rivers also provides an interactive map of dam removals for more exploring.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 in American Rivers

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