Magazine article State Legislatures

Goodbye Old Dams, Farewell. (on First Reading)

Magazine article State Legislatures

Goodbye Old Dams, Farewell. (on First Reading)

Article excerpt

Since the 1800s, 75,000 dams have been constructed along rivers and streams in the United States to harness water for hydroelectricity, irrigation, drinking water, sawmills, recreational areas and flood control.

Many now are past their prime, pose hazards for residents and block migratory fish from their habitat.

To deal with the problems of these aging structures, the Maine Office of Environmental Affairs has begun an interagency dam removal program--River Restore--and is working with the federal government, conservationists, dam owners and local communities to tear them down.

One of the larger projects released a river and allowed it to run free for the first time in 162 years. The Edwards Mill Dam on the Kennebec River in Maine was breached in July 1999 and set a precedent for dam removal.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) refused to relicense the hydroelectric dam, determining that the barrier it posed to migratory fish outweighed the benefit it provided in generating electricity. FERC ordered removal of the dam, setting a national precedent and marking the first time in United States history that a dam was removed solely for environmental reasons.

Other states and federal agencies have begun campaigns to remove dams. The Marines helped blow up the Rains Mill Dam in North Carolina, opening spawning areas for several fish species along the Little River. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has been responsible for removing dams on the Neuse and Little rivers, opening up some 1,100 stream miles. …

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