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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.
April 7, 2017, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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David Brimm

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.

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Published on Monday, March 27, 2017 in Next City
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