Monitoring should be a key component of any dam removal process, both to ensure that project goals and objectives were met and to improve the practice of dam removal.   The project team should develop a monitoring plan that covers pre‐project monitoring, monitoring during construction and post-project monitoring.  A project might be monitored for changes in fish population, temperature, dissolved oxygen, or physical changes to the stream channel among other things. Many permits will also require some form of project monitoring.

There are many documents which describe methods for monitoring, for example, the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment developed a handbook titled, “Stream Barrier and Removal Guide.”  This guide provides pre‐ and post‐dam removal monitoring guidelines that provide methods to assess impacts on sediment transport, stream channel morphology, fish passage, macroinvertebrates, water quality, and riparian vegetative communities.   The guide is available online.

In addition to the guidance available online, the Monitoring Partners of the Statewide Dam Removal Partnership (SDRP) have created a comprehensive monitoring guide, which includes a universal suite of monitoring parameters (aka metrics) specific to dam removal monitoring.  The guidance below is designed to help organize monitoring efforts needed to achieve dam removal project goals. Within each of the links below, you will find information about individual metrics, such as their importance to dam removal monitoring, defined monitoring goals (required by permit, state surface water quality standards, project and/or research related) and acceptable methodology for data collection. Depending on the project, monitoring may be required by permit to assess water quality parameters like sediment, and/or turbidity or for biological assessments of fish species and/or mussel populations.  Chemical, physical or biological monitoring can also be used to determine water quality impairments and  compared against the state’s surface water quality standards. Monitoring efforts will also allow project managers to determine pre existing water quality conditions and document improvements to water quality post removal. When funding and capacity allow, research related monitoring can be a great way to evaluate the long term ecological, sociological and economic benefits of your project.

The guidance to the right is intended to provide the basic information project managers will need to begin dam removal project monitoring. A number of useful reference links for individual metrics are included and provide more information for individual metrics.  Furthermore, The SDRP Monitoring Partners are here to help. If you are interested in or required to monitor your dam removal project, please contact us with your questions via the Contact page.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is a suggested guide to monitoring and is to be used as such. Please reach out to regulators early about any additional regulatory requirements, including any required methods.

Click on the photos below to learn more about each topic

Floodplain Restoration and Survivability

Fish Monitoring





Benthic Invertebrates

Invasive Species


Habitat Assessment

Sediment & Geomorphology

Flooding & Hydrology