Turning off the dams and letting rivers come alive

February 26th, 2013
As manuscripts for this new contribution to GSA's Reviews in Engineering Geology series were about to be submitted for publication, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation turned off the generators to the Elwha Dam in Washington State. Editors Jerome De Graff of the U.S. Forest Service and James Evans of Bowling Green State University write, "It seems fitting that publication of this volume and the actual start of restoration on the Elwha River should coincide."

River restoration is a societal goal in the United States. This collection of 14 research papers focuses on what is currently known about the impacts of removing dams and the role of dam removal in the larger context of river restoration.

In their preface, De Graff and Evans write, "It would be easy for people who are only familiar with dam removal and river restoration from the popular media perspective to see these issues as a new controversy arising from environmental concerns. The first paper in this volume, 'Dam removal: A history of decision points,' by Laura Wildman, convincingly demonstrates that controversy over dam removal and construction has a very long history in the United States."

The books' 14 chapters, say the editors, "collectively illustrate that construction, modification, and removal of dams represent a continuum of overlapping human interactions with the environment. The longevity of most dams, and the magnitude of the hydrological and sedimentological response to these human interactions with the environment, make these case studies outstanding examples of the concept of humans as geological agents."

Chapters are grouped by topic: (1) assessment of existing dams, strategies to determine impounded legacy sediments, and evaluating whether or not to remove the dams; (2) case studies of the hydrologic, sediment, and ecosystem impacts of recent dam removals; (3) assessment of river restoration by modifying flows or removing dams; and (4) the concept of river restoration in the context of historic changes in river systems.

Case studies include the Elwha River Restoration Project, northwestern Washington State; San Clemente Dam in Carmel, California; Klamath River Dams in the U.S. Pacific Northwest; Merrimack Village Dam, Souhegan River, New Hampshire; Munroe Falls Dam on the Middle Cuyahoga River, Ohio; Palisades Dam on the Snake River, Idaho; Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, Oregon, USA; urban stream restoration in Springfield, Ohio; low-head dam removal on the Ottawa River, Ohio; small dams along Chileno Creek in central California; and the "rise and fall" of mid-Atlantic streams.

More information:
Individual copies of the volume may be purchased through The Geological Society of America online bookstore, http://www.geosociety.org/bookstore/default.asp?oID=0&catID=11&pID=REG021, or by contacting GSA Sales and Service, gsaservice@geosociety.org.

Provided by Geological Society of America

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