The majority of dam removals are small structures that are governed primarily by state and local bodies. The objective of this study is to characterize and evaluate the governance that has driven recent decisions to remove small dams. In the governance literature on small dam removals, three aspects remain unclear. First, it is unclear which policies and organizations drive dam removals when there is no direct, federal nexus. Second, it is unclear how those conditions shape the decision-making process. Finally, it is unclear how the design of the decision-making process influences stakeholder opinions on the decision to remove the dam. This project addressed these questions by using a modified version of Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development Framework. Results show that, unlike large, hydroelectric dam removals, small dam removals are governed under a polycentric governance arrangement, where power is distributed among many actors at multiple levels. A questionnaire was sent to stakeholders involved with two specific small dam removals. The questionnaire measured the costs and design of the governance process in each dam removal, and how those variables were associated with stakeholder opinions on the decision to remove the dam. Results show very little difference in governance process between dam removals led by local government and those led by an NGO. Stakeholder opinions in both dam removals showed high levels of satisfaction and optimism for the long-term viability of the infrastructure that replaced the dam. Small dams will likely continue to be the most commonly removed dams. Understanding the governance behind small dam removals may help reduce conflict and costs of future projects.