Wed. Oct 4th, 2023
    Efforts to Remove Dams in the US Gain Momentum for Environmental and Cultural Reasons

    As the need for renewable energy sources grows, there has been a concerted effort to remove dams across the United States. While dams have traditionally been used for hydroelectric power generation, the majority of the country’s dams serve other purposes such as irrigation, recreation, and drinking water. However, it has become apparent that dams have significant negative impacts on the environment and the cultures of communities that rely on the affected rivers.

    An example of this is seen along the Klamath River in Northern California. The river has historically been home to the third-largest salmon run in the country, providing sustenance and meaning to the Yurok Tribe, who have settled along its shores for thousands of years. However, the salmon population has been on the brink of extinction, largely due to the presence of the Iron Gate Dam located upstream.

    This situation has left members of the Yurok Tribe, like Toni Rae Peters, unable to fish and rely on the river for their primary source of food. The detrimental effects of dams on ecosystems and the subsequent decline of species are not new issues for tribal communities like the Yurok, who have been experiencing and voicing these concerns for decades.

    Over the years, it has become evident that dams disrupt natural habitats, emit more carbon than previously believed, and pollute rivers and streams. As a result, many dams have been abandoned as companies stopped renewing their leases on them. Mark Bransom, an advocate for dam removal, has been instrumental in the removal of over 2,000 dams in the past 90 years, with the highest number of removals occurring between 2017 and 2019. The Iron Gate Dam is the latest project on their list, with its removal set to be completed next year, costing approximately $500 million.

    The push for dam removal is not without opposition from communities who value the benefits that these structures offer. However, proponents of removal believe that restoring rivers to their natural state will bring about ecological balance and foster appreciation for the environment. This restoration process is seen as essential for the well-being of both the river and the people who have a symbiotic relationship with it.

    The removal of dams signifies a shift towards a greener future, where the negative impacts on the environment and cultural heritage are considered and addressed. By allowing rivers to heal and restoring natural habitats, we can hope for a future where both the environment and communities thrive.


    – U.S. Energy Information Administration

    – Scripps News