Will Dam Removal Increase Nitrogen Flux to Estuaries?
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To advance the science of dam removal, analyses of functions and benefits need to be linked to individual dam attributes and effects on downstream receiving waters.

We examined 7550 dams in the New England (USA) region for possible tradeoffs associated with dam removal. Dam removal often generates improvements for safety or migratory fish passage but might increase nitrogen (N) flux and eutrophication in coastal watersheds. We estimated N loading and removal with algorithms using geospatial data on land use, stream flow and hydrography. We focused on dams with reservoirs that increase retention time at specific points of river reaches, creating localized hotspots of elevated N removal. Approximately 2200 dams with reservoirs had potential benefits for N removal based on N loading, retention time and depth. Across stream orders, safety concerns on these N removal dams ranged between 28% and 44%. First order streams constituted the majority of N removal dams (70%), but only 3% of those were classified as high value for fish passage. In cases where dam removal might eliminate N removal function from a particular reservoir, site-specific analyses are warranted to improve N delivery estimates and examine alternatives that retain the reservoir while enhancing fish passage and safety.

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Publication Summary

  • Geosyntec Authors: Marissa Simpson
  • All Authors: J. Gold *, Kelly Addy, Alisa Morrison and Marissa Simpson
  • Title: Water
  • Event or Publication: Publication
  • Practice Areas: Water and Natural Resources, Water Management
  • Citation: Water 2016, 8(11), 522; doi:10.3390/w8110522
  • Date: 2016