Dam removal has emerged as a critical issue in environmental management. Agencies responsible for dams face a drastic increase in the number of potential dam removals in the near future. Given limited resources, these agencies need to develop ways to decide which dams should be removed and in what order. The underlying science of dam removal is relatively undeveloped and most agencies faced with dam removal lack a coherent purpose for removing dams. These shortcomings can be overcome by the implementation of two policies by agencies faced with dam removal: (1) the development and adoption of a prioritization scheme for what constitutes an important dam removal, and (2) the establishment of minimum levels of analysis prior to decision-making about a dam removal. Federal and state agencies and the scientific community must encourage an initial experimental phase of dam removal during which only a few dams are removed, and these are studied intensively. This will allow for the development of the fundamental scientific understanding needed to support effective decision-making in the future and minimize the risk of disasters arising from poorly thought out dam removal decisions.
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