Environmental Management

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 99–109 | Cite as

Examination of Physical and Regulatory Variables Leading to Small Dam Removal in Wisconsin

  • Cailin H. Orr
  • Brian M. Roth
  • Kenneth J. Forshay
  • James D. Gonzales
  • Michael M. Papenfus
  • Rebecca D.G. Wassell


The decision to remove or repair a dam depends on multiple variables, many of which encompass both physical and social factors. In Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources is mandated to inspect small dams every ten years. A safety inspection often acts as a trigger event to a dam removal or repair decision. Although the issues surrounding a dam removal decision are often couched as ecological, these decisions are influenced by their social and regulatory context. In this work, we examine descriptive variables of Wisconsin dams that were inspected and consequently removed or maintained between 1985 and 1990. We hypothesize that geographic location, height of dam, size of impoundment, age of dam, and type of ownership determine the likelihood of a safety inspection, and the subsequent likelihood of removal. Using a logistic model, we find that publicly owned dams had the greatest probability of inspection after 1985. Of these dams, older dams and those with smaller impoundments were most likely to be removed. We were unable to build a strong predictive model for dam removal with our suite of variables, suggesting that a community’s decision to remove or maintain a dam is complex and heterogeneous.


Dam removal Place attachment River management 



Portions of this work has been supported by the NSF IGERT grant 9870703, Human Dimensions of Social and Aquatic System Interactions. The authors are indebted to WDNR Dam Safety Engineers Meg Galloway and Sue Josheff, and River Alliance Small Dams Manager Helen Sarakinos for the information and suggestions they provided. We also appreciate the valuable input given by Emily H. Stanley, Peter Nowak, Stanley I. Dodson, Marieke Heemskerk, and two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cailin H. Orr
    • 1
  • Brian M. Roth
    • 1
  • Kenneth J. Forshay
    • 1
  • James D. Gonzales
    • 2
  • Michael M. Papenfus
    • 3
  • Rebecca D.G. Wassell
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for LimnologyUniversity of Wisconsin, 680 North Park Street, Madison, WisconsinUSA
  2. 2.Department of Rural SociologyUniversity of Wisconsin, 430 Agricultural Hall, Madison, WisconsinUSA
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural & Applied EconomicsUniversity of Wisconsin, 312 Taylor Hall, Madison, WisconsinUSA
  4. 4.USDA Forest ServiceOkanogan and Wenatchee National Forests, Cle Elum Ranger District, 803 W. 2nd Street, Cle Elum, WashingtonUSA

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