The economic case for tearing down dams (article)

There’s a plan to remove the Milltown dam, similar to the plan to remove a dam in Marysville. NB Power says Milltown has “reached the end of its life” and will “seek approval to remove” it. They took a look at extending the life beyond 140 years and found it’s “not financially feasible.” The dam accounts for less than one per cent of NB Power’s hydroelectric generation.

In Europe, 5,000 dams have been removed, according to a study by Spanish engineer Pao Fernandez Garrido of the World Fish Migration Foundation.

About 2,000 dams have been removed in North America, so this is part of a worldwide trend. It’s a trend because many dams, such as the one in Milltown, have outlived their usefulness. They cost far less to remove than to repair and the economic benefit is greater with removal. They generate very little power – about what a few solar panels would.

The U.S. promotes dam removal and has a national strategy, and that may be why they’re ahead. In Canada, dams are regulated differently in different provinces and there’s no pot of money for removal.

The research says 50 years is about the life expectancy of a dam. That’s about how long the one in Marysville was useful and then it sat idle, killing fish for another 50 years. Milltown is past its expected life by about 90 years.

Read the full article here.