There are varying ways communities address their low head dams…
Unacceptable – No warnings signs, or small, inadequate signs that do not express the drowning hazard. Lack of river exits at a safe distance from dams. Unfortunately, this is the case for most low head dams.
Minimum – Appropriately sized warning signs at dams that express the extreme drowning hazard.
Good – Warning sign and buoy program that includes signage well upstream of the dams, exclusion zones around dams, marked portage trails for exiting the river ahead of dams or other dangerous parts of the river, and point-of-access river safety information.
Better – Physical alteration of dams, like rock ramps, to eliminate the hydraulic effect.*
Best – Complete removal of the dam and restoration of the river. Dams have significant negative impacts on the health of rivers and the wildlife in the rivers. Following removal and restoration efforts, rivers revert back to a healthy state, and wildlife begins to flourish very quickly.*
Beyond – As part of a removal and restoration effort, many communities are investing in the creation of whitewater parks. These attractions offer economic and quality of life benefits for these communities.*
Click here for a great example of a whitewater park.
*A comprehensive safety signage program is still necessary for areas that are working toward Better, Best, or Beyond options, and should remain in place until the hazard has been eliminated.