Congressional Bills Could Hit Refresh on U.S. Dams

The 21st Century Dams Act, a proposal to remove four dams on the lower Snake River, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act all have a chance to redefine the country's approach to dams and watersheds.

2 minute read

August 25, 2021, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Water rushes over a spillway at a large concrete dam.

GAJH Mobile Photography / Shutterstock

Brian Graber, senior director of river restoration at the river conservation advocacy group American Rivers, writes an article providing an update on the status of dam removal efforts around the country.

Central to the article is the 21st Century Dams Act, introduced in July in the House of Representatives by Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and in the Senate by senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and several other Democrats. The bill would spend almost $26 billion to repair dams for improved energy production and safety.

According to a statement by Dianne Feinstein at the time of the 21st Century Dams Act's introduction, the bill would

  • Improve public safety: Invests in state dam safety capabilities, expands grant funding for the rehabilitation of existing dams and makes available low-interest loans to rehabilitate non-federal dams.
  • Enhance clean energy production and grid resilience: Invests in existing federal dams to improve their safety and renewable energy generating capacity.
  • Restore river ecosystems: Authorizes an interagency and stakeholder advisory committee to help administer a public source of climate resilience and conservation funding to reconnect 10,000 miles of rivers through the removal of 1,000 dams with owner consent.

In addition to announcing the support of American Rivers for the 21st Century Dams Act, Graber also supports a proposal to remove four federal dams on the lower Snake River.

"Both efforts are necessary and timely, as Congress and the Biden Administration consider national infrastructure investments," writes Graber. "Dams have devastated river health nationwide, impacting rivers, fish and wildlife populations, and cultural resources. As dams age and flood magnitudes increase with climate change, many dams become public safety hazards. Dams are infrastructure and should be part of any federal infrastructure legislation."

With regard to the mention of federal infrastructure legislation, a separate article by Matt Young for American Rivers voices support for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved by the Senate earlier in August, and now moving forward in the House of Representatives as part of a $3.5 trillion budget package.

"The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would invest $55 billion in water infrastructure, $12 billion for flood management and over $4.5 billion for watershed restoration," writes Young. Included in that list is $1.6 billion for dam removal and dam safety.

Monday, August 23, 2021 in American Rivers

Aerial view of snowy single-family homes in suburban Long Island, New York

New York Governor Advances Housing Plan Amid Stiff Suburban Opposition

Governor Kathy Hochul’s ambitious proposal to create more housing has once again run into a brick wall of opposition in New York’s enormous suburbs, especially on Long Island. This year, however, the wall may have some cracks.

March 20, 2023 - Mark H. McNulty

Yellow on black "Expect Delays" traffic sign

A Serious Critique of Congestion Costs and Induced Vehicle Travel Impacts

Some highway advocates continue to claim that roadway expansions are justified to reduce traffic congestion. That's not what the research shows. It's time to stop obsessing over congestion and instead strive for efficient accessibility.

March 14, 2023 - Todd Litman

Empty parking garage at night with yellow lines marking spots and fluorescent lighting

Rethinking the Role of Parking in the American City

In cities big and small, the tide is turning against sprawling parking lots, car-centric development, and minimum parking mandates.

March 16, 2023 - The New York Times


Mapping Sidewalks for Improved Connectivity

A new tool uses aerial image recognition to map a city’s sidewalks and crosswalks. Its developers hope it will aid in creating a more comprehensive understanding of pedestrian networks and where improvements are needed.

March 22 - MIT News

A light rail train waits at the Downtown Long Beach station with a sign that reads “Long Beach” to declare its route to riders.

Long Beach Residents Oppose Proposed Homeless Services Hub Near Rail Terminus

L.A. Metro’s “end-of-the-line” policy forces people experiencing homeless off transit every night at the same time and location. A proposed hub would provide services a few stops before the end of the line in Long Beach.

March 22 - Long Beach Post

A hypothetical map of the state of Idaho, expanded by annexing a large portion fo Oregon. The map is emblazoned with the words “Greater Idaho.”

The Nation's Most Advanced Secessionist Movement

Legislation supporting the Greater Idaho Movement, which would annex over half of neighboring Oregon, has advanced in the Idaho legislature.

March 22 - FOX News

Planner II

City of Greenville

Planner I

City of Greenville

Rural Projects Coordinator (RARE AmeriCorps Member)

Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) AmeriCorps Program

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.