Dam Removal More Cost-Effective Than Repairs, Says Study

Photo courtesy Save the Bay.
Photo courtesy Save the Bay.

ecoRI.org: Dams and culverts exist in abundance across Massachusetts, and many of these structures, according to the state MA Department of Fish & Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), are in poor condition and have outlived their design life.

Although removing or upgrading these structures can require significant up-front costs, stream-restoration efforts mitigate flood risks, improve ecosystem function and relieve long-term financial burdens, according to DER.

Last year, the agency commissioned a study to see how the costs of removing a dam or replacing a culvert to meet Massachusetts stream-crossing standards compared against maintenance or replacement with an in-kind structure. The study looked at costs for completed projects and used engineers’ analyses to develop estimates of what the costs would have been if the dams had been repaired or culverts had been replaced in-kind.

In short, the study found that the average cost of the 6 stream-barrier-removal projects was significantly less than the expense of repairing and maintaining existing structures over a 30-year period. On average, removal of the dams in the study was 60% less expensive and upgrades of the culverts was 38% less expensive, according to the study.

Read more about the dam and culvert replacement study in Massachusettts.