Federal Funding for Dam Removal in the United States

The second installment in a series about funding sources for dam removal, this issue brief discusses the role federal agencies and programs may play in dam removal projects.



Dec. 7, 2020


Issue Brief

Reading time

1 minute


Dam removals can generate environmental benefits and, simultaneously, in the case of old and deficient dams, reduce safety problems. Finding money to pay for dam removal is a challenge, however. This Issue Brief describes federal government programs that are used to fund dam removal and some of their limitations and possibilities. The programs reside in the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). We also describe a federal partnership program led by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which has provided funding in the Great Lakes region. Most of the programs target ecosystem restoration and fish passage, but two focus on rehabilitation of failing dams. We describe how these latter programs may have the potential to be used more for removals in particular circumstances, sometimes with modifications. This is one in a series of four RFF issue briefs on alternative funding approaches for dam removal. See Walls and Shabman (2020) for an introduction to the series.

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