National Dam Removal Database: A living database for information on dying dams

Science Center Objects

The United States has over 2 million dams on rivers and streams (Graf, 1999), and more than 84,000 of the larger dams are documented in the congressionally mandated National Inventory of Dams (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2015). The average age of these National Inventory of Dams is 52 years; by the year 2030, over 80 percent will be at least 50 years old (American Society of Civil Engineers, ...

The United States has over 2 million dams on rivers and streams (Graf, 1999), and more than 84,000 of the larger dams are documented in the congressionally mandated National Inventory of Dams (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2015). The average age of these National Inventory of Dams is 52 years; by the year 2030, over 80 percent will be at least 50 years old (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2015). As a result of this aging infrastructure, dam removal has increased during recent decades with the total number of removed dams estimated at around 1,200 (American Rivers, 2014).



Many factors drive downstream physical and biological responses following dam removal, with most rivers changing rapidly and demonstrating ecosystem resiliency (O’Connor and others, 2015). An emerging need for scientists, land managers, and communities facing decisions about dams is access to relevant scientific information about the physical, biological, and ecological responses of rivers and reservoirs to dam removal.

In response to this need, this project team used CDI funding to create a dynamic database of dam removals and the scientific studies associated with them. This project expands upon the work from a recently completed dam removal synthesis project at the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis, where we created a relational database of scientific studies associated with dam removal responses (Bellmore and others, 2015). The current CDI project sought to transform Bellmore and colleagues static relational database into a dynamic data system that is accessible through an online interface, connected to existing USGS and partner databases, and interactive with viewing, searching, and accessibility functions. The nonprofit group American Rivers is an important partner to the project, with its comprehensive database on dam removals (American Rivers, 2014).Our goal is to increase the accessibility of dam removal science to researchers and managers by providing a centralized location of information related to dam removal studies.



As a first phase of the project, the project team created the Dam Removal Information Portal (DRIP; fig. 13) (U.S. Geological Survey, 2015j). This online Web site, powered by CartoDB and using data and services from USGS ScienceBase, currently contains tools for visualization and analysis of georeferenced dam removals and associated scientific studies contained in the American Rivers (2014) and Bellmore and others (2015) databases, respectively. From these databases, the team created a dam removal science registry in ScienceBase that contains properties about individual dams that have been removed (for example, location and size) as well as the associated scientific studies (both peer-reviewed literature and other report sources). The particular attributes of each study are cataloged and include features such as study design, study duration, and metrics studied as well as demographic characteristics about the studied dam(s). As such, each dam that has been removed and has associated scientific studies is represented in a ScienceBase collection, where additional information (for example, before and after imagery), digital object identifiers, and links to available studies are contained. The project team refers to this underlying architecture as the National Dam Removal Science Database (fig. 14).



Additional functionality is being developed for the National Dam Removal Science Database and DRIP. For example, the locations of all dam removals are being associated with stream segments in the National Hydrography Dataset Plus version 2. The goal is to allow users to query existing hydrographic features (for example, basin area, river miles upstream of the dam, land use, and land cover) associated with individual projects or collections of dam removals. Linking to other existing USGS data sources (for example, NWIS) is also envisioned. The project team has taken steps to help ensure long-term viability of the National Dam Removal Science Database by developing the capability within the Biogeographic Information System, a larger overall platform maintained within ScienceBase by the Core Science Analytics, Synthesis and Libraries organization.



The next phase of the project, using supplementary, non-CDI funding acquired for FY 2016, will incorporate additional functionality into the database and its user interface. An important element of this work will be to continually update the dam removal science registry with new information as it becomes available in the scientific literature. We are exploring possibilities of automating locating, processing, and extracting data from new dam removal studies from literature sources by creating a Knowledge Assembly Engine. This feature is based on DeepDive technology (Niu, 2012), which is a machine learning system for extracting structured information from text (for example, online PDF versions of literature sources). Another possible feature that the team is exploring is implementing an interface so that users have the ability to upload basic information about new dam removals and dam removal studies via the DRIP interface.



Providing a comprehensive and accessible knowledge base about the science of data removal is one of the anticipated overarching benefits of this project. Dam removal is likely to continue to be an important part of national and international responses to aging infrastructure and an important method for river restoration. Natural resource managers, practitioners, and scientists need to use the best available information to plan and conduct dam removal projects as well as to conduct effectiveness research and monitoring to track and understand important ecosystem responses.

Accomplishments

The accomplishments for this project were as follows:

  • USGS DRIP.— Web site available at http://www.sciencebase.gov/drip
  • USGS open-file report.—On the structure of the National Dam Removal Science Database and the DRIP (Duda and others, 2016)







Note:  This description is from the Community for Data Integration 2015 Annual Report.



A USGS Open File Report about the Methods in developing the Dam Removal Information Portal is available:

Duda, J.J., Wieferich, D.J., Bristol, R.S., Bellmore, J.R., Hutchison, V.B., Vittum, K.M., Craig, Laura, and Warrick, J.A., 2016, Dam Removal Information Portal (DRIP)—A map-based resource linking scientific studies and associated geospatial information about dam removals: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1132, 14 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161132.