UNH Research Finds N.H. Residents Support Dam Removal Except When Used for Hydropower

Thursday, July 25, 2019

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DURHAM, N.H.—Granite State residents generally favor keeping a dam when needed for hydropower but otherwise support removal above preservation of industrial history, maintenance of waterfront property values or maintenance of lake and pond-based recreation, according to new survey research released by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.

The researchers also found that respondents who self-identified as either Democrats or independents were more likely to prefer removal than Republicans, and that younger respondents and women were more likely to prefer removal.

Many of New Hampshire’s dams are reaching the end of their lifespan and require expensive maintenance or removal in order to meet safety standards. Thirty-four of New Hampshire’s approximately 4,800 dams were removed between 1990 and 2017. More than 3,200 of the remaining dams in the Granite State, most over 100 years old, are considered to be active.

“These survey results can inform decisions about how to best steward public resources and funding for maintaining or removing dams as well as provide a context, representative of New Hampshire’s broader demographics, to complement opinions expressed by relatively small numbers of outspoken citizens at local meetings about specific dams,” the researchers said.

The researchers noted that respondents had varying preferences for dam removal and roughly 20 percent of respondents did not have a preference.

“We see a need for thoughtful, active information campaigns and public education focused on the benefits and tradeoffs of various dam management options, including doing nothing,” the researchers said. The survey research was led by Natallia Leuchanka, a doctoral candidate in natural resources and environmental studies. Coauthors are Catherine Ashcraft, assistant professor of natural resources and the environment and a Carsey faculty fellow; Kevin Gardner, professor of civil and environmental engineering and a Carsey senior faculty fellow; and Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology and a Carsey senior fellow.

Support for this project is provided by the National Science Foundation’s Research Infrastructure Improvement Program NSF #IIA-1539071.

The Carsey School of Public Policy conducts research, leadership development, and engaged scholarship relevant to public policy. They address pressing challenges, striving for innovative, responsive, and equitable solutions at all levels of government and in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

The University of New Hampshire inspires innovation and transforms lives in our state, nation and world. More than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries engage with an award-winning faculty in top-ranked programs in business, engineering, law, health and human services, liberal arts and the sciences across more than 200 programs of study. As one of the nation’s highest-performing research universities, UNH partners with NASA, NOAA, NSF and NIH, and receives more than $110 million in competitive external funding every year to further explore and define the frontiers of land, sea and space.