From American Rivers:
The movement to restore healthy, flowing rivers continues to grow, American Rivers announced today, with 65 dams in 20 states removed in 2022, reconnecting more than 430 upstream miles of rivers.
Dam removal is a proven tool to restore river health, improve public safety, revitalize fish and wildlife populations, safeguard cultural values, and reconnect communities to their rivers. River restoration also benefits the economy: every $1 million invested in restoring watersheds generates 16 jobs and up to $2.5 million in economic benefits.
As part of its leadership in river restoration, American Rivers tracks dam removal trends and maintains a national dam removal database. A total of 2,025 dams have been removed in the U.S. since 1912.
In 2022, the states leading in dam removal were Ohio (11 removals), Pennsylvania (10 removals) and Virginia (6 removals).
Many, if not most, dams in the U.S. are unnecessary, harmful, and even dangerous. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams catalogs more than 90,000 dams nationwide, but the actual number exceeds 400,000 dams. American Rivers recently announced a goal to remove 30,000 dams by 2050, in partnership with communities, Tribal Nations, and state and federal agencies, to ensure that rivers can continue to sustain life.
“Rivers are essential to our health and the health of the natural world. Removing a dam is the fastest, most efficient way to bring a river back to life,” said Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of American Rivers.
“The river restoration movement is stronger than ever, but in the face of the climate crisis, wildlife extinction and loss of nature, and the racial injustice crisis, it’s crucial that we accelerate our river restoration efforts.”
Dam removal numbers are once again on the rise across the country, following a lull during the pandemic, as dam safety and resilience to climate change become increasingly important priorities.
The largest river and salmon restoration project in history will begin this year on the Klamath River in Oregon and California, with the removal of four dams. This effort on the Klamath is the result of decades of leadership and advocacy from the Karuk, Yurok, Klamath and other tribes, and will restore salmon runs, improve water quality, and revitalize cultural connections and food sovereignty.
Dam removal projects are expected to increase nationwide thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service have already allocated the first round of IIJA funding toward the removal of at least 54 dams.
Rivers start to come back to life almost immediately after a dam is removed and plants, fish, and wildlife throughout the ecosystem are revitalized. For example, in 2022, numbers of American eel in Maryland’s Patapsco River upstream of the former Bloede Dam (removed in 2018) increased nearly 10-fold each year from 2020 to 2022 (361 in 2020; 3,419 in 2021; and 36,520 in 2022).
Dams harm rivers in many ways. They block migrating fish and prevent the movement of sediment and other natural building blocks of habitat. Dams can impact water quality, and some dams pose serious public safety hazards. Hydropower dams are a source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. As they age, dams can be liabilities that put communities in harm’s way of catastrophic flooding and other risks.
About American Rivers
American Rivers is championing a national effort to protect and restore all rivers, from remote mountain streams to urban waterways. Healthy rivers provide people and nature with clean, abundant water and natural habitat. For 50 years, American Rivers staff, supporters, and partners have shared a common belief: Life Depends on Rivers. For more information, please visit AmericanRivers.org