Jo Beth MULLENS, Ph.D. Associate Professor. Departments of Geography and Environmental Studies. Keene State College. 229 Main Street. Keene, NH 03435. (603) 385-2547 E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
The recent surge in dam removals across the United States marks the beginning of a new era in water resource management. Increased structural repair and maintenance costs for aging facilities and an expansion in approaches toward river restoration have propelled the removal of over 500 dams nationwide. While there are many water resource professionals who have praised this recent trend, others have raised concerns over removals. One issue of concern is the lack of a consistent protocol for assessing the impacts and making decisions regarding a dam's removal, and for monitoring and evaluating the results. New England has numerous older dams, an increasing number of which are considered to be safety hazards. Additionally some of these facilities are located on rivers targeted for ecosystem restoration programs. As a result, government agencies that regulate dams have felt increased pressure to raze them as a way to address safety and ecosystem hazards. This paper focuses on the decision-making process that occurs around dam removal and the status of state policies available to structure it. The process of dismantling dams within New England and the conditions that facilitate as well as impede the process are examined. The consideration of dam removal in New England highlights the need for unambiguous and uniform policies to evaluate dam removal proposals, key leadership to help navigate the removal process and secure critical funding, and guidelines for monitoring the post-removal impacts.