The River Alliance of Wisconsin and Trout Unlimited have published a report, Restoring the Flow: Improving Selective Small Dam Removal Understanding and Practice in the Great Lakes States, which summarizes dam removal policy and management recommendations from more than 40 river restoration experts from around the Great Lakes. It is the product of a unique gathering of resource professionals, conservationists, and academics with over 100 years of combined dam removal experience and involvement with more than 100 dam removals across the Great Lakes region. The recommendations in this report are intended to guide policies and initiatives and to improve the understanding and use of small dam removal as a fisheries and river restoration tool in the Great Lakes region.
Nationwide, more than 500 dams have been removed in the last century, over half of these in the Great Lakes region. Selective small dam removal is recognized as one of the most effective and economical river restoration tools today. But dam removal can also be a contentious issue within local communities, invoking concerns about economic impacts, public safety, and the loss of impoundments created by dams. While there is a wealth of dam removal experience in the region, there is a need to more effectively collect and share information, communicate, and inform affected communities about the potential benefits and impacts of small dam removal. This report is a first concrete step to meeting these needs.
Wisconsin continues to lead the nation in removal of old, unsafe and uneconomical dams from public waters, and recently made history with the Baraboo River dam removals. Four dams were removed, restoring the entire river – over 115 miles – to free-flowing, making this the largest river restoration through dam removal in US history. More than 100 dams have been removed from Wisconsin waters in the last 50 years.