Dam Removal

American Whitewater and the whitewater paddling community have a long history of supporting dam removals across the country. It is only natural that paddlers are active advocates for dam removal, since we are one of the groups most impacted by dams. Paddlers have played integral roles in the removal of dams using a variety of strategies. The following is a list of some of these dams and the tactics that were utilized.

  • Dillsboro Dam, Tuckasegee River, NC. AW and other paddling groups supported dam removal in relicensing negotiations and encouraged public support of the project.
  • Condit Dam, White Salmon River, WA. AW supported dam removal through this relicensing process ultimately resulting in a settlement agreement for removal.
  • Sandy River Basin, OR. AW volunteer and staff played major role in this relicensing related dam removal and development of a water trail along the restored river.
  • Elwha River, WA. Paddlers have long advocated for the removal of these dams that have ended once prolific salmon runs into Olympic National Park.
  • Bearcamp River, NH. AW and the Merrimack Valley paddlers supported this dam removal and paddlers attended removal ceremonies.
  • Sturgeon River, MI. Paddlers supported this relicensing related dam removal.
  • Penobscot River, ME. Paddlers supported this dam removal but have not yet become major players.
  • Twelvemile Creek, SC. AW Volunteer Kevin Miller is representing paddlers in the ongoing removal negotiations focused on at least two dams.
  • Pine River, WI. AW unsuccessfully attempted to have this dam removed through relicensing.
  • Willimantic River, CT. AW has supported volunteer Dan Mullins in his significant efforts to have 4 dams removed. We assisted Dan with his advocacy and planning efforts and with forming the Willimantic Whitewater Partnership. Dan has turned a boater's dream into a social and environmental movement.
  • Contoocook RiverAW advocated for this dam removal and was the first outside party to commit funds to the removal. Volunteer board member Tom Christopher was instrumental in this process.
  • Rogue River, OR. Paddlers were among advocates for funding to removal of 3 dams on the Rogue and notch the Elk Creek Dam.
  • Sullivan Creek, WA. AW was instrumental in negotiating the settlement agreement for the removal of the dam on Sullivan Creek.
  • Milltown Dam, MT - EPA superfund site impacting aquatic habitat. AW and regional boaters were active stakeholders in the removal negotiations.

Many of these projects, have been hydropower projects where environmental impacts are greater than the benefits of continuing to operate the projects. We normally refer to these projects as decommissioning, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission notes that this term has no specific meaning in federal statute and prefers to “removal of project works” as an alternative. “The term “decommission” has no designated meaning in the context of Part I of the FPA, which governs hydropower licensing. In various proceedings, parties, as well as the Commission, have used the term as short-hand both for the cessation of hydroelectric generation and for the removal of project works. For clarity, it is preferable to refer to project removal or the removal of project works, where that is the intended meaning” [Portland General Electric Company 107 FERC ¶ 61,158 at 61,519 n.11 (2004)].

To learn more about some of our dam removal efforts in partnership with our colleagues in the Hydropower Reform Coalition check out Restore, a special publication on river restoration through dam removal.

The most important things to remember with dam removals is that they are entirely possible, more are happening all the time, and that one person can make a big difference.

Paddlers have also advocated for dams to be backfilled or removed to create whitewater features. Such is the case with the Iowa Whitewater Coalition, who have developed a video about river renewal through dam removal and whitewater feature construction. The video can be viewed online at: http://www.iowawhitewater.org/RORvideo.html

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