A major study of the Connecticut River shows how its flow and ecosystem has been altered by dozens of dams.
The nonprofit Nature Conservancy worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to try and reconstruct how the Connecticut River might flow if not for the more than 70 large dams in its watershed.
"It's less about restoring natural flows completely and more about learning about the ecosystem from this theory and figuring out how we can apply that knowledge to improve the system,” says Katie Kennedy, a scientist with the nonprofit.
She says she hopes the study, which is the first of its scale, will help regulators and dam operators plan changes that could benefit the environment more without sacrificing power generation, flood control or water supply.
“I really think that these models can help us find those sweet spots,” Kennedy says.
The analysis could also come into play as federal regulators weigh new long-term licenses for five hydropower facilities on the river in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.