Removing dams and other instream barriers can be one of the fastest, most effective ways of restoring the ecological function of rivers. Dam removal can provide a variety of benefits, including restoration of more natural hydrologic and sediment transport regimes, reestablishment of lotic habitat, and reconnection of fragmented historic migratory corridors for movement of aquatic species. However, as more dam removal projects are proposed, many resource managers are discovering that challenges associated with socio-political and regulatory components of a project can have a direct effect on project design and, subsequently, project outcomes. Community perception of dams can collide with perceived functions, or habitat value provided by the structure. Regulators often struggle with reconciling environmental restoration with codes designed to regulate developers and other industry. Is improved scientific understanding all for naught when faced with incongruent regulatory standards or competing social values?
During this talk, we will explore how social and regulatory processes intersect with science and the influence these may have on the practice of dam removal. We will examine the varied application of regulations tied to Clean Water Act 404 permitting and 401 water quality certifications at the federal and state level and whether increased collaboration between the scientific and regulatory community would improve the regulatory process. Finally, we will end with recommendations for advancing the practice of dam removal in light of these challenges.