Dam Politics

cover art
320 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780878403905 (0878403906)

ISBN: 9781589013063

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March 2003
LC: 2002015787

American Governance and Public Policy series


Table of Contents

Dam Politics
Restoring America's Rivers
William R. Lowry

The politics of building dams and levees and other structures are just part of the policies determining how American rivers are managed or mismanaged. America's well-being depends upon the health of those rivers and important decisions go beyond just dam-building or dam removal. American rivers are suffering from poor water quality, altered flows, and diminished natural habitat. Current efforts by policymakers to change the ways American rivers are managed range from the removal of dams to the simulation of seasonal flows to the restoration of habitat, all with varying degrees of success.

Efforts to restore American rivers are clearly delineated by William Lowry in Dam Politics as he looks at how public policy and rivers interact, examines the physical differences in rivers that affect policies, and analyzes the political differences among the groups that use them. He argues that we are indeed moving into an era of restoration (defined in part as removing dams but also as restoring the water quality, seasonal flows, and natural habitat that existed before structural changes to the rivers), and seeks to understand the political circumstances that affect the degree of restoration.

Lowry presents case studies of eight river restoration efforts, including dam removals on the Neuse and Kennebec rivers, simulation of seasonal flows on the Colorado river, and the failed attempt to restore salmon runs on the Snake river. He develops a typology of four different kinds of possible change—dependent on the parties involved and the physical complexity of the river—and then examines the cases using natural historical material along with dozens of interviews with key policymakers. Policy approaches such as conjunctive water management, adaptive management, alternative licensing processes, and water marketing are presented as possible ways of using our rivers more wisely.

Dam Politics provides a useful and systematic account of how American waterways are managed and how current policies are changing. American rivers are literally the lifeblood of our nation. Lowry has written a lively and accessible book that makes it clear as a mountain stream that it matters deeply how those rivers are managed.

William R. Lowry is an associate professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis. He is also a U.S. Navy veteran and has worked as a seasonal ranger in Yosemite National Park. An avid outdoorsman, Lowry has canoed, rafted, swam in, or hiked along nearly every river discussed in Dam Politics.

Gerard W. Boychuk, Karen Mossberger, and Mark C. Rom, Series Editors
"Dam Politics is a greatly useful contribution to the literature on dams and rivers. Lowry's writing style makes for easy reading, and the pages are filled with facts, history, politics, policy, and personalities. Readers involved in their own particular river or locality will find meaty information about other similar places and issues, and this surely is the best indicator of the utility of the book. This volume is likely to have a lasting and positive influence on river restoration. [Dam Politics] is not only a fine read, it is a great service."—Ecological Restoration

"Dam Politics is a comprehensive, perceptive, and lively analysis of an exciting new era in river and ecosystem restoration policies. William R. Lowry's conceptually rich and insightful investigation of major cases in dam removal and river restoration efforts across the United States is a significant contribution to scholarship on environmental politics and policy. The book's analytical framework, integrating ideas from policy implementation, protection of common pool resources, and the role of advocacy coalitions, explains much about the variation in policy change across different river systems, and has considerable utility as well for other studies of environmental policy change."—Michael E. Kraft, Herbert Fisk Johnson Professor, Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin Green Bay

Table of Contents
1. Going Down to Rivers: The Possibility of a Journey to Restoration

2. Testing the Waters: The Types of Possible Changes

3. Launching the Trip: Into a New Era for American Rivers

4. Getting in the Strong Current: Embracing New Goals

5. Scouting the Rapids: Learning for the Future

6.Waiting Out the Storms: Opportunities and Challenges

7. Keeper Holes: Difficult Problems to Solve

8. Taking Out: Restorations as Symbols of Shifting Tides

Appendix 1: Bibliographical Essay
Appendix 2: Statistical Analyses of Dam Removals