Many Dam Removals Unnecessary, Pressed by Activists

Published September 1, 2008

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has identified dams as one of the biggest threats to Wisconsin’s biodiversity, according to the River Alliance of Wisconsin, an advocacy group for the protection of rivers.

The group also notes Wisconsin leads the nation in dam removal. The alliance says dam removal makes good economic sense, typically costing three to five times less than repair.

“Not all dams serve their original purpose,” said Meg Galloway, chief of the Wisconsin DNR’s Dams and Floodplain Management Section. “Some could probably be removed, and many have been.”

100 Dams Removed

About 100 dams have been removed since 1967, when the DNR was given regulatory control of Wisconsin dams. Most of those have been removed since 1990.

“The decision whether to remove a dam rests with the owner and usually the surrounding community,” Galloway said.

But State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) believes the DNR sometimes uses its authority to override dam owners and communities and enforce an environmentalist agenda.

“Many dams don’t serve their original purpose, but they’re still there because people in the surrounding communities like them,” said Grothman. “They like the aesthetics they provide, the fishing, the boating.

“I think the DNR is downright dishonest about dam safety,” Grothman said. “They try to force dam owners to make improvements and spend too much money so they can justify calling for removal. They’re very quick to condemn dams.”

Brien Farley