Dam Removal & Safety In Canada: Creating Opportunities Through Gaps In Policy & Process
Peterson, Janna Suzanne
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The effects of age and climate change are taking their toll on Canada's dams. These mighty structures were once the powerhouses that drove Canada's economic boom during the mid-20th century. Many industries developed after WWII required electricity and vast resources, much of which were supplied through the harnessing of water by dams. This development was preceded by the territorial evolution of Canada which played an important role in the development of provincial territories and subsequent Acts, including the navigable waters protection Act which governed waterways and the development of dams. We have now reached a time in our history where a perceptional shift in our ideas about these structures is fundamental to our safety and well-being. These once monolithic symbols of power and prosperity are now becoming an immense burden on provincial infrastructure expenses as well as safety hazards to people and the environment. Dam safety is evolving as a central focus for many provincial Ministries as they grapple with how to budget for the repairs and maintenance of these often decaying structures. Canada urgently needs an updated and cohesive nationalized system to deal with these dam safety issues. Dam removal needs to be an integral part of this new system as it offers an often less expensive and ecologically beneficial alternative. The objective of this paper is to provide recommendations to proponents of dam safety on ways to include dam removal in Canada's dam safety management framework. The recommendations I propose include an increase in funding for both dam removal projects and the provincial ministries in charge of regulating them, the creation of a more comprehensive and nationalized dam inventory and classification system, the implementation of a stream-lined dam removal program, tools for more integrated and efficient approach to prioritizing dams for removal and an accessible framework with which to track and monitor dam removal projects as well as catalogue dam incidents. Recommendations for improvement of this process will be addressed using information from the current Canadian Dam Safety (CDA) guidelines, as well as examining the current provincial Acts and legislation addressing dam safety and dam removal in Canada.