GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 213-14
Presentation Time: 5:05 PM


GALSTER, Joshua C., Earth & Environmental Studies, Montclair State University, 1 Normal Ave., Montclair State, EAES Dept., Montclair, NJ 07043

Stream restoration in general and dam removal in particular is a common method to improve river systems that have become impaired because of human actions. Across the United States, dam removals have increased exponentially over the last few decades. Approximately 40 dams were removed before 1980, while over 1200 have been removed since 2000. However, these dam removals are not randomly distributed across the US. A national inventory of over 1400 dam removals was downloaded from American Rivers and compared to racial demographic data from the 2010 Census. Census tracts with dam removals had a higher % of white residents compared the demographics of the state where the dam is. This was true for 49 out of 50 states. This disparity continues even if only census tracts with dams present are considered. For state-by-state analysis, the smaller the % of the total the population that is white the greater the disparity between the census tracts with dam removals versus the state overall. That is, the states with a more diverse population tend to have dam removals in census tracts with even whiter populations. This is important for environmental justice implications, as dam removals can improve the accessibility to natural environments and introduce more diverse populations to wild areas. While factors such as habitat connectivity and water quality improvement will remain important, future dam removals should consider the demographic of local populations when choosing projects.