Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020ME234B

20 years of River Restoration in Maine: Using Socio-economics and Benefit Transfer to Inform Decision-Making on Dam Removals

Institute: Maine
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $26,402 Total Non-Federal Funds: $54,829

Principal Investigators: Lynne Lewis

Abstract: This project seeks funding to continue long-term social science monitoring and research on the impacts of dam removals in Maine begun by Dr. Lynne Y. Lewis and students in 2005. Maine is home to the site of the first federally licensed hydropower dam in the country to be removed for the purpose of river restoration. The Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River was removed in 1999, and since that time, there have been significant river restoration efforts on other Maine rivers. Social science monitoring of restoration projects is extremely important, but it is frequently overlooked. We seek to evaluate ongoing sustainability efforts on rivers in Maine by estimating the socio-economic impacts of river restoration efforts on the Kennebec, Penobscot, and Androscoggin Rivers while at the same time contributing to the training of undergraduates for sustainability focused decision-making. In particular, we request funding to support two undergraduate students training in social science and economics research, faculty supervision for a partial summer month, and collaboration with Source to Sea Consulting. The work will engage key stakeholders on the identification and evaluation of impacts and contribute to the knowledge of social science monitoring on river restoration projects by measuring the economic impacts of dam removals on property value over time. We expect the results of this project will help inform policy decisions on future dam removals by providing a longer term monitoring effort of the impacts of restorations.Large scale ecological restoration including river restoration through dam removal requires a broad and diverse set of project stakeholders. Comprehensive stakeholder engagement and collaboration between a variety of interests is critical to the success of these projects. A critical factor for engaging community members in and building support for large scale habitat restoration is demonstrating lasting benefits including benefits to the economy. This proposed study will provide information on how these benefits change following dam removals. Over time, it is expected that these benefits will continue to grow and thereby sustain valuable ecological, economic, and community dynamics. Understanding trends in restoration from the human dimension can add value to the decision-making processes about dam removal. This project supports the Water and Science Vision and Mission of the USGS which states that it “will serve society through water-resource monitoring, assessment, modeling, and research to provide tools that managers and policymakers can use.†The project also meets several of the RFP objectives including “Identifying and overcoming key barriers in connecting scientific knowledge with societal actions to promote effective water resource management; and building upon past research to increase the delivery of decision-support systems and other tools that facilitate real-world problem-solving.â€