There is a growing movement to remove dams where the ecological and safety benefits of removing the dam outweigh the costs to the dam owner, the community, and the river ecosystem.  Under Massachusetts dam safety laws, dam owners bear the cost and responsibility for maintaining their dam in a safe condition.  Dam owners are also liable for property damage or injury resulting from the dam.  Many dam owners pursue dam removal in order to eliminate the public safety hazard, maintenance costs, and liability.
Wapping Road dam before removal
Wapping Road dam before removal, Kingston
River after removal of Wapping Road dam
After removal of Wapping Road dam, Kingston
State Hospital Dam in action - large backhoe in river
State Hospital Dam removal in action, Taunton
Dams create artificial habitat by impounding water and altering river function.  Impoundments trap sediment and create stagnant conditions with warmer water and lower dissolved oxygen than the rest of the river system.  Dams also block the movement of fish that need to access different areas of the watershed and different habitats during their life cycle.  With more than 3000 dams in Massachusetts, there is an abundance of ponded habitat and a lack of free-flowing riverine habitat.  
Map of approximately 3000 Dams in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has more than 3,000 dams.

For the last 10 years, the Division of Ecological Restoration has been working with agencies, non-governmental organizations, and dam owners to removing unwanted dams and restore rivers.  Working together, we have removed nearly 30 dams.  We have 30 dam removal projects in the planning stages.  Please see the Priority Projects Process page for information on how we select our projects.

Are you interested in removing a dam?  DER is eager to provide technical assistance to dam owners and others interested in river and stream restoration.   Please see our Dam Removal Resources Page for a starting point.  To learn more about restoring rivers through dam removal, contact Beth Lambert, Aquatic Habitat Restoration Program Manager, at 617-626-1526 or

Jones River before restoration
Jones River before restoration, Kingston
Jones River after restoration
Jones River after restoration, Kingston
Amethyst Brook dam removal in progress - machinery in river
Amethyst Brook dam removal in progress, Pelham