CCS Dams and Watershed Health


Building capacity for local groups to plan for and implement community-based monitoring of streams before, during, and after dam removal.


As momentum builds for dam removal throughout the United States, monitoring will be critical for both scientists and managers to assess and respond to the geophysical and biological impacts of these disturbance-causing, yet potentially regenerative, ecological events. Citizen science is one approach that can overcome insufficient monitoring while sustaining public engagement and connecting communities with both science and their local environment.

A grant made through the Open Rivers Fund, a program of Resources Legacy Fund supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, is funding our work building capacity for community-based monitoring of streams and watersheds before, during, and after dam removal. As part of this work, we have developed a manual that provides technical planning assistance for local groups to design and implement citizen science projects in their own watersheds. The manual draws from a multidisciplinary body of peer reviewed literature and will be used to guide the development of citizen science projects at several sites throughout the Western United States where planning efforts for the removal of obsolete dams are underway. 



Photo Essay: Rattlesnake Creek Dam Removal and Restoration

Water flows in foreground with town in backgroundWith support from the Open Rivers Fund, a program run by the Resources Legacy Fund, our Dams and Watershed Health team, Heidi Ballard, Ryan Meyer, and Chris Jadallah traveled to Missoula, Montana in July 2019 to observe and participate in the environmental monitoring associated with the removal of Rattlesnake Creek Dam. Through meetings and hands-on experience, we got an up-close look at both the promise and the challenges of monitoring collaborations focused on dam removal. 


Rattlesnake Creek Dam Removal

Working with local partners in Missoula, Montana

map of Rattlesnake Creek watershed

Rattlesnake Creek Dam 

Originally built to provide water for the City of Missoula in 1904, the Rattlesnake Creek Dam was first constructed as a wooden structure and later converted into a concrete one. After problems with Giardia contamination in the early 1980s, a private utility took the dam offline and the City of Missoula converted to groundwater as its primary source for drinking water.

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