On Wednesday the nonprofit group American Rivers announced its list of outdated or unsafe U.S. dams removed in 2013 to restore rivers, tallying 51 projects undertaken by communities in 18 states working with nonprofit groups and state and federal agencies.
American Rivers says it had a hand in 25 of the 2013 dam removals, but tracks all removals, and is the only organization to do so. According to the group, the top states for dam removal last year were Pennsylvania (12), Oregon (eight), New Jersey (four), and, with three apiece, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Vermont. About 1,150 dams have been removed since 1912, with most of those deconstructions occurring in the past 20 years.
Why remove dams? There are tens of thousands of them in the U.S., and quite a few are old, unsafe or no longer serve their intended purpose. As former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt once said, “on average, we have constructed one dam every day since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.” Removing them, especially those that no longer do enough for us (e.g., generating adequate amounts of reasonably clean hydropower), can restore river health, clean water, and fish and wildlife, and improve public safety and recreation. See a more complete list of reasons here.
To accompany the 2013 list, American Rivers launched an interactive map that includes all known dam removals in the United States as far back as 1936. The map features the name of the dam and river, location, year the dam was removed, and a description.
“For the first time ever, we have an interactive map that shows every dam removal that has ever happened in the U.S.,” said Devin Dotson, American Rivers’ associate director of communications. “There aren’t many things that have such a big impact on a river as a dam. They block a river, they can hurt clean water, they can hurt fish, they can hurt wildlife. American Rivers has pioneered a science-based approach to the removal of outdated dams.”
Read more from AmericanRivers.org:
51 dams removed to restore rivers in 2013
New interactive map: all known U.S. dam removals since 1936