American Rivers

Washington, D.C.

Nov 2, 2011
Outside Magazine
Dam removal

Removing the Glines Canyon Dam on Washington's Elwha River    Photo: Courtesy of American Rivers

BY THE NUMBERS: 200 dams dismantled since 1998
WHO'S IN CHARGE: CEO and president Bob Irvin, 52, a veteran attorney and environmentalist who most recently served as senior vice president for conservation programs at Defenders of Wildlife
WHAT IT DOES: Rivers are valuable for more than just hydropower: they provide clean drinking water, recreational ­opportunities, and healthy fisheries. For years, American Rivers (AR) has pushed these and other arguments in an effort to heal North American waterways, and the group has been at the forefront of two big recent anti-dam victories, both in Washington State. This fall, the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam became the tallest ever removed, restoring more than 70 miles of salmon and steelhead habitat on the Elwha River. The dismantling of the 125-foot Condit Dam has restored 33 miles of steelhead habitat on the White Salmon River, a renowned whitewater run visited by 25,000 boaters annually. The nonprofit group also lobbies for Wild and Scenic designations—which preserve rivers as free-flowing—releases an annual most-endangered list to spotlight rivers in peril, and works with municipalities to push measures to prevent polluted urban runoff from reaching watersheds.
EXTRA CREDIT: AR has earned honors from multiple watchdog groups for its efforts to improve river health.
LOOKING AHEAD: American Rivers helped orchestrate the removal of two major dams on Maine’s Penobscot River. When completed next summer, the effort will restore 1,000 miles of Atlantic salmon runs and ­canoeing and fishing access. The organization, which spent $8.5 million in 2010, has also helped plan more than 100 dam removals over the next five years.