Frank Magilligan

Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH


Frank Magilligan is a Professor of Geography at Dartmouth College. He received his Ph.D. in Geography and a M.S. in both Geography and Water Resource Management from the University of Wisconsin. His research interests focus primarily on fluvial geomorphology and surface water hydrology with particular attention to stream channel and watershed responses to environmental change. Most of his research has concentrated on the hydro-ecological impacts of dams and of dam removal. His new project investigates the social dimensions of dam removal, focusing on dam removal as a lens into environmental conflict. He has served on several National Science Foundation Panels and was recently a co-author of a National Research Council (NRC) report on the future research directions in the Geographical Sciences.


The Era of Big Dam Building: It Ain’t Over ‘Till It’s Over 

In 1998, Sec. of Interior Bruce Babbit stood atop the McPherrin Dam and with the quick blow of a sledgehammer, he simultaneously began dismantling the dam and ushered in what he called “the end of the era of big dam building.” Although this era might be tapering off within the United States, in many ways, it is just beginning internationally. Although the definition of “large dam” remains ambiguous, the International Commission of Large Dams (ICOLD) indicates that there are > 45,000 large dams globally with thousands more planned for impending construction, especially in China, South East Asia, South America, and Africa.  These large dams fragment watersheds, generate significant impacts on local and regional fisheries, and affect the livelihoods of millions. In this paper, we present the biophysical and environmental impacts associated with large dams – including both upstream and downstream effects—and further discuss the social context for existing and currently planned large dams. Although these large hydropower dams are often presented as “clean” energy, we contend that because of the ecological and social impacts of the existing and planned large dams, they are not necessarily “green”.

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