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Cover Story

New Report Synthesizes U.S. Dam-Removal Studies



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The rate of dam removal in the U.S. has increased over past decades, motivating a working group at the USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis to review available dam-removal studies. The synthesis of their findings, “Dam removal: Listening in,” appeared July 31 in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) journal Water Resources Research. The abstract is given here.

Views of Glines Canyon Dam before dam removal
Views of Glines Canyon Dam 2.5 weeks after dam removal
Above: Views of Glines Canyon Dam before [left, larger version] and 2½ weeks after removal began [right, larger version]

Dam removal is widely used as an approach for river restoration in the United States. The increase in dam removals—particularly large dams—and associated dam-removal studies over the last few decades motivated a working group at the USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis to review and synthesize available studies of dam removals and their findings. Based on dam removals thus far, some general conclusions have emerged: (1) physical responses are typically fast, with the rate of sediment erosion largely dependent on sediment characteristics and dam-removal strategy; (2) ecological responses to dam removal differ among the affected upstream, downstream, and reservoir reaches; (3) dam removal tends to quickly reestablish connectivity, restoring the movement of material and organisms between upstream and downstream river reaches; (4) geographic context, river history, and land use significantly influence river restoration trajectories and recovery potential because they control broader physical and ecological processes and conditions; and (5) quantitative modeling capability is improving, particularly for physical and broad-scale ecological effects, and gives managers information needed to understand and predict long-term effects of dam removal on riverine ecosystems. Although these studies collectively enhance our understanding of how riverine ecosystems respond to dam removal, knowledge gaps remain because most studies have been short (< 5 years) and do not adequately represent the diversity of dam types, watershed conditions, and dam-removal methods in the U.S.

The full citation for the article is:

Foley, M.M., Bellmore, J., O’Connor, J.E., Duda, J., East, A., Grant, G.G., Anderson, C., Bountry, J.A., Collins, M.J., Connolly, P.J., Craig, L.S., Evans, J.E., Greene, S., Magilligan, F.J., et al., 2017, Dam removal—Listening in: Water Resources Research, doi: 10.1002/2017WR020457.

Related Sound Waves Stories
International Recognition for Historic Elwha River Restoration
Oct. - Dec. 2016
Scientific Portrait of the Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History
January / February 2015
New Video Shows a Virtual Fly-Through Along the Lower Elwha River, Washington, Using Recently Acquired Ground-Based Lidar Data
Mar. / Apr. 2012
Elwha Dam Removal Begins—Long-Planned Project Will Restore Ecosystem, Salmon Runs
Nov. / Dec. 2011
Final Beach-Erosion Survey of the Elwha River Delta Before Dam Removal
Sept. / Oct. 2011
Publications Explain Elwha River Restoration to Scientists, General Public
Sept. / Oct. 2011

Related Websites
USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis
USGS
Dam removal: Listening in
Water Resources Research
Rapid water quality change in the Elwha River estuary complex during dam removal
USGS
Ephemeral seafloor sedimentation during dam removal: Elwha River, Washington
USGS
Landscape context and the biophysical response of rivers to dam removal in the United States
PlosOne
Study: Rivers Recover Faster Than Expected After Dam Removal
NewsDeeply

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USGS Researcher Awarded 2018 Rudi Lemberg Travelling Fellowship

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Pete Dal Ferro and Melissa Foley Take Jobs in New Zealand

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New Report Synthesizes U.S. Dam-Removal Studies

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