The Future of Dams

photo of dam removal work

The Future of Dams

Competing demands and perspectives make decisions about dam management complex

Hydropower is a major source of renewable energy in New England with over 50 dams scheduled for relicensing in the next decade. In New Hampshire, we have thousands of aging mill dams that were once used to power the nation's Industrial Revolution.

Dams provide recreational and water supply benefits for many communities, but some pose safety and liability risks due to old age and poor condition. Also, dams can have adverse effects on coastal ecosystems and economies, especially fisheries. This project is a stakeholder-engaged, solutions-focused research initiative focused on the many complex decisions that will need to be made about the future of dams in New England.

We are developing a framework for dam decision-making that will empower our communities

Using dams in New England as a model system, collaborators across the New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island research networks are examining the economic, ecological, social, and political trade-offs associated with different kinds of decisions about dams. Examples include increasing power production at existing hydropower dams, installing new power production technology at non-power dams, maintaining existing but non-power dams for recreation or habitat, or removing dams to restore fisheries or address safety concerns.

This approach to problem solving is dependent upon – and benefits from – the local knowledge and know-how of diverse groups including government, business and industry, and non-governmental organizations. This project has the potential to develop new pathways to decisions among many competing demands and perspectives. The integrated approach to workforce development provides training and leadership to scientists, engineers, and students from a range of disciplines.


Partner Institutions: Maine EPSCoR, Rhode Island EPSCoR, University of New Hampshire, University of Maine, University of Rhode Island, University of Southern Maine, Keene State College