Dam Removal and River Restoration

Assisting dam owners and communities through the dam removal process.

An image of heavy equipment removing a damThere are more than 2,600 active dams that are regulated by the Dam Bureau in the State of New Hampshire and likely hundreds more that do not meet the definition of a dam. Many of these dams were built during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and they played central roles in New Hampshire’s economic and societal growth during that period. But as technological and societal needs have changed, so too has the need for dams. 

Dam removal is an option that can be considered for dams that are obsolete or are in disrepair. It can result in significant environmental, economic and social benefits. Selective dam removal can eliminate a public safety hazard, relieve a dam owner’s financial and legal burdens and restore a river to a healthier, free-flowing condition. The Dam Removal and River Restoration Program assists dam owners and communities through the dam removal process. Since the inception of the Program, 36 active dams have been removed.

excavator removing great dam in exeter.

Guidance and Technical Assistance

NHDES has created guidelines to assist dam owners, communities, regulatory agencies and other interested parties with information about the regulatory process of removing a dam. Read our frequently asked questions on selective dam removal. Another resource: Guidelines for Historical and Archaeological Resources.  

Dam Removal Guidance  

An image of heavy equipment removing a dam

Permitting requirements for dam removal 

Dam removal projects require review and approval from the NHDES Wetlands Bureau, and must include a Dam Removal attachment form and an Army Corps review because work will take place in either surface waters or wetlands, and often times both. The Dam Bureau does not require a separate permit but does require the attachment to ensure compliance and that any remaining structure will no longer be considered a jurisdictional dam. In some limited cases, a Shoreland permit will be needed for work in uplands adjacent to the dam. 

Get the Dam Removal Attachment  

A small dam

Rule and statutes for dam removal

A dam removal project requires work that is covered by numerous state regulations. The following links include the most common state laws and administrative rules associated with dam removal projects.