Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Dam Policy: The Emerging Paradigm of Restoration

May 2001

Citation: ELR 10486

Author: Christine A. Klein

Throughout the 20th century, the United States dedicated enormous resources to the construction of a staggering array of dams. Those structures are monuments to an era now past—a time during which free-flowing rivers were deemed "wasted," a period when the nation embarked upon a frenzied attempt to "reclaim" the landscape from its natural condition at all costs. Rivers were converted into elaborate plumbing systems as tens of thousands of dams, both public and private, impeded some 600,000 miles of flowing streams.1

Toward the end of the 20th century, a surprising change of policy began to occur. The commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation declared that the era of dams was over.2 Even more astounding, national attention began to focus upon campaigns for dam removal, the very antithesis of more than a century of federal water policy. In cases such as the Edwards Dam in Maine, a broad coalition of federal, state, and local forces successfully devised a plan to breach the dam.3 Prominent newspapers such as the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post provided front-page coverage of the events, declaring "the end of an era in America."4

Christine Klein is a Professor of Law at the Michigan State University, Detroit College of Law. She received her LL.M. from Columbia University, her J.D. from the University of Colorado, and her B.A. from Middlebury College. This Article is derived from an earlier work of the author, Christine A. Klein, On Dams and Democracy, 78 OR. L. REV. 641 (1999).

You must be a News & Analysis subscriber to download the full article.

You are not logged in. To access this content: