Dam Ownership

What is the difference between a dam owner and a dam regulator?

A dam owner is liable for the dam and is responsible for its upkeep, upgrade and repair. A dam regulator is responsible for enforcing policies, inspecting the safety of a dam, review of plans for new construction or rehabilitation and has a broader overall outlook on the construction and upkeep of dams. Owners can be private citizens or companies, quasi-governmental bodies, state or local governments or federal agencies. Regulators work for the state or federal government. Most dams – about 70% in the US – are regulated by state agencies. All states have regulatory programs in place except one, Alabama.  Federal agencies regulated about 14% of dams in the U.S. The remaining percentage are unregulated due to state or federal exemptions. (ASDSO)

Who owns the dams that are being removed?

Private businesses, federal agencies, state agencies, local governments, or public utilities may own dams. Most of the dams removed to date have been owned privately, by local government, or by public utilities. (AR)

Who will own the exposed land?

Land ownership questions can typically be answered by referring to the deeds for the specific dam property and the adjacent properties. The dam’s deed might include all of the land that was flowed and the exposed land would revert to the dam owner. Some dam owners have donated these lands to land trusts or quit-claim deeded them to the adjacent land owners or municipalities. In other cases, the land currently underwater may be publicly owned, or it may simply revert to the property owners bordering the restored river. Deeds can be researched at that county’s Registry of Deeds. (NHDES)

How will property values be affected?

This is a difficult question to answer because it is very much dependent on the particular site and is strongly influenced by other issues, for example, the real estate market, location in state, characteristics of the property. Studies have not shown strong correlations between dam removal and changes in property values. For instance, if a dam removal restores sport fishing, property values may increase. If, on the other hand, a dam is removed that creates a pond unique to the area, property values may decline. As shown at sites across the country, the removal of a particular dam will be seen as a good thing to some potential buyers and a bad thing to others. One person’s lost pond is another person’s restored river. (NHDES)