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Dam removals and river restoration in international perspective

Chris S. Sneddon
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA; cssneddon@dartmouth.edu

Regis Barraud
University of Poitiers, RURALITES Research Team (EA 2552), Poitiers, France; regis.barraud@univ-poitiers.fr

Marie-Anne Germaine
Paris Nanterre University, Laboratoire LAVUE UMR 7218 CNRS, Nanterre, France; marie-anne.germaine@parisnanterre.fr

ABSTRACT: In the Anthropocene era, questions over institutions, economics, culture and politics are central to the promotion of water-society relations that enhance biophysical resilience and democratic modes of environmental governance. The removal of dams and weirs from river systems may well signal an important shift in how human actors value and utilize rivers. Yet the removal of water infrastructure is often lengthy, institutionally complex, and characterized by social conflict. This Special Issues draws insights from case studies of recent efforts in North America and Europe to restore river systems through dam and weir removal. These cases include both instances where removal has come to fruition in conjunction with efforts to rehabilitate aquatic systems and instances where removal has been stymied by a constellation of institutional, political and cultural factors. Drawing from diverse theoretical frames and methodological approaches, the papers presented here offer novel ways to conceptualize water-society relations using the lens of dam removal and river restoration, as well as crucial reminders of the multiple biophysical and social dimensions of restoration initiatives for water resource practitioners interested in the rehabilitation of socioecological systems.

KEYWORDS: Dam removal, weir removal, river restoration, case study, water-society relations