New Hampshire’s rivers and streams host more than 4,800 dams, many of them centuries old and built for purposes that no longer apply, such as powering long-closed mills. These aging dams present a policy dilemma as communities weigh the costs of maintaining or removing them. Recent research can help communities navigate the complexity of these dam decisions.
The research — by doctoral student Natallia Leuchanka Diessner, professor of civil and environmental engineering Kevin Gardner, Catherine Ashcraft, assistant professor of natural resources and the environment, and professor of sociology Larry Hamilton — found that a majority of respondents in three Granite State polls favor removing dams except when they’re being used for hydropower generation. When the alternative is to keep dams to maintain waterfront property values, preserve industrial history or maintain lake- and pond-based recreation, most New Hampshire residents polled favor removing the dams to create free-flowing rivers that benefit fish and wildlife.
“These survey results can inform decisions about how to best steward public resources and funding for maintaining or removing dams,” says Diessner, lead author of the Carsey School brief, an outcome of NH EPSCoR’s National Science Foundation-funded Future of Dams project.