Saying Adios to 80 Dams in 2023
As many have heard by now, 2023 was a major milestone year for dam removal in the U.S., with the initiation of the largest dam removal project in the country on the Klamath River in California. However, you may not have heard about the 79 other dams that were removed, reconnecting 1,160 upstream river miles. These projects reestablished migration corridors, made natural and human communities more resilient to climate change, improved access to habitat to promote biodiversity, eliminated safety hazards and maintenance costs, enhanced access to rivers for local communities, reestablished natural processes for healthy rivers, and many other benefits.
As a nationwide leader in river restoration, American Rivers tracks dam removal trends and maintains a national dam removal database. A total of 2,119 dams have been removed in the U.S. since 1912.
In 2023, the states leading in dam removal were:
Pennsylvania (15 removals)
Oregon (9 removals)
Massachusetts (6 removals)
Twenty-two other states also removed dams in 2023: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Pennsylvania still leads the country in all time number of dam removals at 390!
As Katie Schmidt recently shared, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has promoted a bump in removals, helping with at least 18 of this past year’s projects. We need more funding like this in order to address the backlog of dilapidated infrastructure out there.
Many dams in the U.S. are no longer serving the purpose for which they were constructed and/or are deteriorating and in need of significant repairs. Dilapidated dams pose safety hazards and threaten the resilience of human and natural communities. This year, the National Low Head Dam Inventory Task Force, in partnership with the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, catalogued hundreds of thousands of dams, bringing the national total to more than 531,000 dams. American Rivers is building a movement 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.
You can read more about some of the projects completed in 2023 in our annual dam removal summary.
If you work on dam removals in some capacity (practitioner, regulator, researcher, contractor, community advocate, etc.), we invite you to join our National Dam Removal Community of Practice. We will be working with this community to build out strategies to get to 30,000 dam removals by 2050. If you aren’t heavily involved in dam removal, but you still love the idea of it, we would appreciate your financial support to keep the lights on.
Lastly, if you want to hear more about some case studies from the 2023 cohort of dam removals, please consider joining us for a webinar on February 21 at 3PM ET. You can register here.
We can make this happen together!
[T1]Add link to summary pdf