Full Title: Dam Removal and the Federal Role
Author(s): Anna E. Normand
Publisher(s): Congressional Research Service (CRS)
Publication Date: October 27, 2021
Full Text: Download Resource
Dam owners sometimes consider dam removal as a policy option to address dam safety, ecosystem restoration, or other concerns. The National Inventory of Dams (NID) lists more than 90,000 dams in the United States, many of which function as part of the nation’s water infrastructure and provide benefits (e.g., flood control, hydroelectric power, recreation, navigation, and water supply). Stakeholders may consider the removal of a dam for various reasons—for example, if a certain dam requires major dam safety modifications or no longer provides its intended benefits. In addition, dams often affect ecosystem processes and aquatic species mobility; these effects may be costly to mitigate and may prompt consideration of dam removal. According to a stakeholder database that tracks dam removals, nearly 1,800 dams were removed in the United States from 1912 to 2020, with approximately 800 removed from 2011 to 2020. Small, nonfederal dams accounted for most of these removals; removal of federally owned or regulated dams was less frequent during the 1912–2020 period (e.g., approximately 70 of the dams removed since 1912 were federally owned).