The Case for Dam Removal

Where aging infrastructure is concerned, most of us don't immediately think of old dams. But there are a lot of them. Environmental advocates want to see them go, and in recent years de-damming has picked up speed.

1 minute read

April 7, 2017, 7:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Feather River Dam

David Brimm / Shutterstock

While hydroelectric power remains a significant source of renewable energy, thousands of dams across the country are becoming obsolete. Advocates argue that restoring key rivers is worth the cost of decommissioning old dams. Daniel J. McGraw writes, "Dams prevent waterways from cleaning themselves. When they are removed, the natural filtering process can work its magic."

"Since 1912, about 1,300 dams have been removed in the U.S. But in the last 10 years, the pace of de-damming has sped up considerably with nearly half of the removals happening since 2006." According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 14,000 dams across the U.S. are high-hazard, "meaning there will be loss of life and significant economic loss downstream if they fail."

McGraw's piece focuses on Ohio's Cuyahoga River, which infamously caught fire in the late 1960s and prompted the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. De-damming that river has bipartisan support, but finding the funds can be difficult, especially as the Trump administration proposes massive cuts to the EPA.

Monday, March 27, 2017 in Next City

Chicago Intercity Rail

Amtrak Ramping Up Infrastructure Projects

Thanks to federal funding from the 2021 infrastructure act, the agency plans to triple its investment in infrastructure improvements and new routes in the next two years.

September 25, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

Google maps street view of San Francisco alleyway.

Ending Downtown San Francisco’s ‘Doom Loop’

A new public space project offers an ambitious vision—so why is the city implementing it at such a small scale?

September 26, 2023 - Fast Company

Google street view of yellow "End Freeway 1/4 mile" sign on 90 freeway in Los Angeles, California.

Proposal Would Transform L.A.’s ‘Freeway to Nowhere’ Into Park, Housing

A never-completed freeway segment could see new life as a mixed-use development with housing, commercial space, and one of the county’s largest parks.

September 26, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

Traffic on the 405 interstate freeway through the Sepulveda Pass at Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California

Report: Bike Lanes Can't Make up for New Roads

If California wants to meet its climate goals, the state must stop funding its myriad road construction and expansion projects.

6 hours ago - Streetsblog California

Late evening view of downtown Minneapolis skyline with stone bridge in foreground

Minneapolis Affordable Housing Project Largest in 20 Years

The city opened its first large multifamily affordable housing complex in decades, but a recent court ruling against the Minneapolis 2040 rezoning plan could jeopardize future projects.

7 hours ago - Minnesota Public Radio

Close-up of vertical PARK sign on multistory urban parking garage.

NYC Mayor Proposes Eliminating Parking Minimums

Mayor Adams wants to stop requiring off-site parking for new buildings to reduce the costs of construction as part of the ‘City of Yes’ package of zoning reforms.

September 29 - StreetsBlog NYC

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.