Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Stagnant Water Bodies Pollution II


Dam removal decisions should ideally be made after a thorough cost-benefit analysis. If dam obsolescence, structural safety, harm to fisheries, maintenance costs, and reservoir eutrophication are among the primary concerns, decommissioning would likely be favored. On the other hand, dams provide considerable benefits including water storage for agricultural and urban consumption, renewable electricity generation, support of navigational canal systems, flood control, and lakes for recreation. Because of these competing factors and interests, dam removal decision-making in the United States is often a slow process fraught with controversy, as in the case of the Klamath River.

Dams provided mechanical water power essential for mills during the Industrial Revolution, notably on the Passaic River (New Jersey). The 1973 demolition of an old industrial dam at Fort Edward (New York) infamously spread toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) downstream in Hudson River sediments, requiring costly remediation and providing a cautionary tale. More recently, carefully planned removals of obsolete dams (on the Cuyahoga, Elwha, and Naugatuck Rivers) were completed without serious environmental impairment, particularly when operators performed a gradual, staged demolition of the dam after the reservoir had been drained. A similarly cautious approach proved successful at the Clark Fork River Superfund site (Montana), even with the serious additional complication of heavily contaminated reservoir sediments requiring removal for off-site disposal. Minor run-of-river dams in urban areas have been removed without significantly affecting sediment contamination levels.

Book Publisher

Atelier Libros Jurídicos (Barcelona)

Journal ISSN / Book ISBN


Book Editor(s)

M. Salgot

Published Citation

Kruge M.A. (2017) Dam removal in the USA: Effects on river water quality. In, M. Salgot, ed., Stagnant Water Bodies Pollution II, Atelier, Barcelona, ch. 2, pp. 37-64.