The near failure of a small dam last year is spurring the U.S. state of Massachusetts to streamline its dam removal process.
The state’s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs is to convene a working group to evaluate ways to reduce regulatory complexity that hinders dam removal.
“While many dams provide important societal benefits in the form of water supply, flood control, and hydropower, many other dams are no longer serving the purpose for which they were built, but remain as decaying relics of our industrial past,” agency Secretary Stephen Pritchard said Jan. 27.
The near breach of 173-year-old, 12-foot-tall Whittenton Pond Dam threatened Taunton, Mass., in October 2005. That raised public awareness and highlighted the problem of deteriorating dams, the agency noted. Massachusetts has more than 3,000 dams.
The Environmental Affairs office said existing regulation is designed to prevent adverse effects to the environment, but is not designed to facilitate projects that could improve the environment, such as dam removal. The working group is to review approaches in other states, including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Gov. Mitt Romney’s proposed budget includes $512,000 for the Office of Dam Safety to implement comprehensive regulatory reform.