ABOUT THIS BOOK
The politics of building dams and levees and other structures are just part of the policies determining how American rivers are managed or mismanaged. America's well-being depends upon the health of those rivers and important decisions go beyond just dam-building or dam removal. American rivers are suffering from poor water quality, altered flows, and diminished natural habitat. Current efforts by policymakers to change the ways American rivers are managed range from the removal of dams to the simulation of seasonal flows to the restoration of habitat, all with varying degrees of success.
Efforts to restore American rivers are clearly delineated by William Lowry in Dam Politics as he looks at how public policy and rivers interact, examines the physical differences in rivers that affect policies, and analyzes the political differences among the groups that use them. He argues that we are indeed moving into an era of restoration (defined in part as removing dams but also as restoring the water quality, seasonal flows, and natural habitat that existed before structural changes to the rivers), and seeks to understand the political circumstances that affect the degree of restoration.
Lowry presents case studies of eight river restoration efforts, including dam removals on the Neuse and Kennebec rivers, simulation of seasonal flows on the Colorado river, and the failed attempt to restore salmon runs on the Snake river. He develops a typology of four different kinds of possible change—dependent on the parties involved and the physical complexity of the river—and then examines the cases using natural historical material along with dozens of interviews with key policymakers. Policy approaches such as conjunctive water management, adaptive management, alternative licensing processes, and water marketing are presented as possible ways of using our rivers more wisely.
Dam Politics provides a useful and systematic account of how American waterways are managed and how current policies are changing. American rivers are literally the lifeblood of our nation. Lowry has written a lively and accessible book that makes it clear as a mountain stream that it matters deeply how those rivers are managed.