Dams are fragile: The frenzy and legacy of modern infrastructures along the Klamath and Allegheny Rivers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This article discusses the socio-technical process of dam construction in the United States from the early 20th century to the present. It examines how marginal places have been the object of industrial modifications through the inventiveness and entrepreneurship of social groups and local individuals who, supported by federal measures, have built power and cultural relations on territorial scales for decades. Historical reconstructions describe the generative processes of places through dam construction to demonstrate that the contemporary built environment is a product of natural and human-made relationships. Events associated with modern dam constructions and, more recently, with demolitions along the Klamath and Allegheny Rivers are critically discussed to illustrate how environmental resources relate to and interact with technology, human practices, and places. The article suggests that dams have been engines for industrial growth and technological devices to reframe the interdependencies between people and the environment. Dams supply people with water and energy and protect them and their property from droughts, floods, and fires. However, after a century of operations, these structures are reaching the ends of their lifecycles. In light of dam removal trends in the United States, the article presents a historical narrative on the societal legacy of dams. The intent is to share a broad understanding of the current technical and political debates on whether to demolish or maintain US dams in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalWater History (online)
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care
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  • Modernity
  • Dams
  • Technology
  • Removal


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