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The Life Cycle of Dams: An Analysis of Policy Change on the Rogue River, Oregon

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  • With the convergence of several economic, social, and environmental factors, dam removal has emerged as a feasible river management option. The Rogue River, located in southwest Oregon, is one of the few river basins in the United States to remove a number of large dams in quick succession. This paper will analyze the policy changes in the Rogue River Basin that led to the removals of the Savage Rapids and Gold Ray Dams. A Theoretical Framework for Policy Changes offered by Lowry (2003) is used to identify the type of policy change that occurred with the two dam removals. This framework takes into account broad external factors that affect policy shifts such as socioeconomic conditions and broad public opinion as well as political receptivity to changes and the physical complexity of changes. To identify these factors, an extensive review of public documents, public testimony and comment letters, and newspaper articles and letters-to-the editor was conducted as were interviews. Application of the framework reveals the role of coalitions and socioeconomic conditions as critical factors in altering the status quo in both the Savage Rapids and Gold Ray Dam removal decisions. As watershed managers, governmental agencies, and community leaders negotiate the uncertainties of a changing climate, economy, and environment, dam re-operations and removals will continue to take place and variation within actual policy changes will occur.
  • Presented at The Oregon Water Conference, May 24-25, 2011, Corvallis, OR.
  • KEYWORDS: Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, Gold Ray Dam
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