Dam Removal Roadmap

Every dam is different, but most removal projects follow a generally predictable process.  That includes an initial assessment, community engagement, engineering design and permitting. Check out our road map below.

Basic Dam Removal Steps

Initial assessment: Is the dam a good candidate for removal?

  • Determine potential benefits of removal: reduce upstream and downstream flood risk, restore aquatic habitat, eliminate barrier to fish movement, etc.
  • Identify the dam owner and determine interest in removing the dam
  • Determine current and potential uses of the dam
  • Determine potential impacts to nearby infrastructure: roads, bridges and utilities
  • Assess community support for the project

Identify project partners and assemble project team

  • Identify partners who can provide funding and technical assistance or assist with permitting and community outreach
  • Select a project manager
  • Assemble a team that will guide the project
  • Determine if professional engineering assistance will be needed and hire an experienced engineer
  • Conduct a site visit

Gather information for preliminary project design

  • Gather existing information, complete site survey and mapping, identify any sediment management and historic preservation issues
  • Determine state and federal permitting requirements (most projects require a state permit issued by Vermont ANR and a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
  • Develop preliminary project plans and cost estimates

Hold stakeholder/community meetings

  • Widely share preliminary plans with people in the local community (especially neighbors) and other stakeholders
  • Meet on-site and individually with those most interested in the project

Develop final engineering design, apply for permits, identify funding sources

  • Finalize engineering design for sediment management during removal, infrastructure protection, channel restoration and dam removal
  • Work with your engineer to develop project plans and specifications, project sequencing, staging areas and site access
  • Develop an Engineers Cost Estimate for construction

Take out the dam and celebrate a successful project!

  • Hire a contractor and schedule the removal
  • Contact local and regional media to cover the removal
  • Remove the dam and complete any follow up revegetation or habitat work
  • Celebrate!

On the Hook


It is important for dam owners to know that they are responsible for maintaining the safety of their dams. Owners are legally and financially liable if a dam failure causes downstream damage.