Paper No. 31-1
Presentation Time: 1:35 PM
DAM REMOVALS AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
Removals of dams in the U.S have been growing exponentially, for reasons related to hazard mitigation, esthetic or recreational enhancements, and improved ecological and hydrological functions. We investigate whether these benefits from dam removal accrue disproportionately to neighborhoods inhabited primarily by non-Hispanic whites, thereby exploring a new frontier of environmental justice research. We analyzed dam removals since 2010 using national data on existing dams, removed dams, and demographics. The Northeast had almost half of the overall removals, while the South had the fewest. Nationally, dams were more likely to be removed if they were shorter, older, made of masonry or stone, and whose primary purpose was hydroelectric. Additionally, dams were removed from areas with more non-Hispanic whites compared to areas with existing dams. Regionally, we find that in the South, the probability of a dam being removed since 2010 is positively associated with the proportion of nearby white residents, even after controlling for dam purpose, construction type, age and height. This disparate racial impact can be traced to dams owned by local and state governments in the South, which we suggest is a consequence of the political power of white homeowners in the context of a permissive regulatory environment.