Over the last several years, state agencies and environmental non-profit organizations have targeted dam removal as a way to quickly improve the health of aquatic ecosystems. Dams keep migratory fish from swimming upriver to spawn, block nutrients from flowing downstream, and change the entire hydrology of a watershed. From an ecosystem perspective, taking down a dam and returning a river to a more natural flow seems like a no-brainer.
But a new study says that most dam removal efforts are missing an important part of the picture – you can’t talk about river restoration without also talking about roads.
In the study, published in the May issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a team of researchers mapped out every obstacle, from large hydroelectric dams to tiny road culverts, in the entire Great Lakes drainage basin. What these maps show is that, while there are more than 7,000 dams on the rivers, creeks and streams flowing into the Great Lakes, there are 38 times that number of road crossings. Or 268,818, to be precise. Continue reading