Our Approach

Tactics tailored for each watershed

Open Rivers Fund takes a systematic, scientific, collaborative approach to dam removal across the American West. Projects vary in size, structure, complexity, hydrology, and geography. We partner broadly with communities to find solutions to their water infrastructure challenges that provide benefits to all life that depends on healthy rivers. Through dialogue, supportive policies, new funding, research, and exchanges of knowledge, we seek to build public and political support, expertise, and resources for dam removal as a means of restoring rivers.

photo of man standing next to outdoor sign for the Cow Creek Tribal Government Offices

Supporting local initiatives across the West

Dam removal requires local support and leadership that can envision river restoration as a solution for communities, cultures, economies, and habitats. Open Rivers Fund brings resources and expertise to local partners advancing their dam removal projects of all sizes.

This work is a team effort. We partner with local Tribes, towns, government agencies, landowners, academics, and nonprofit groups. We enlist outside experts to fill critical needs, including planning and engineering support, legal and policy guidance, community outreach, project management, and monitoring. Wherever possible, we leverage additional funds.

Identifying and offering the best tools

Every dam removal project has its unique mix of benefits and challenges. Working in more than 50 watersheds across the West, we listen carefully to local leaders and support their efforts by sharing tools and tactics that have proven successful elsewhere. We provide support to communities across the range of project needs, including permitting, funding, engineering, project management, monitoring, analysis, communications, public outreach, and legal issues.

photo of excavator demolishing dam at Beeson Robison
5 people standing at the base of a dam at Eklutna, evaluating its removal

Building the field of river restoration

Open Rivers Fund seeks to build momentum for a movement that increasingly opens more river miles, restores Tribal treaty rights, preserves and restores fish runs amid a warming climate, reduces costs to communities and landowners, and supports all life with restored balance. We work with our partners to advance a growing body of knowledge—shared in real time through stories and science exchanges—to rapidly increase understanding of the field. As the nation addresses its aging water infrastructure and plans for a more resilient future, this work is essential.

We also support state and federal policy and funding initiatives that advance dam removal and river restoration. For example, Open Rivers Fund supported the Rogue Basin Partnership in its successful effort to streamline historical resource evaluation requirements for small dams and weirs with the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, saving time and reducing costs for local project partners.