First Advisor

Alida Cantor

Term of Graduation

Spring 2022

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geography






Water-supply -- Washington (State) -- Management, Dam retirement -- Political aspects -- Washington (State), Natural resources -- Co-management -- Washington (State)



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 100 pages)


Dams, once considered by many to be good for water development in the Western U.S., might not be a part of a climate resilient future. Dams have come under increasing scrutiny due to undesirable ecological implications. Although dam removal proposals are growingly popular in recent decades, they are controversial since they impact different stakeholders in different ways. In the Pacific Northwest, the Lower four Snake River dams have long been criticized for their negative impacts on salmon. In February 2021, US Congressman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) proposed a comprehensive framework to deconstruct the Lower four Snake River dams as an attempt to redesign Idaho's energy landscape, change transportation pathways, and address the seemingly endless salmon wars. Through a political ecology lens, I examine the factors that serve as drivers to alliance building or points of detachment from alliance building amongst stakeholders, including how each sector views legal methodologies, values nature, embraces their social responsibility, and envisions the region's future under increasing climate change. I analyze 22 semi-structured interviews with a broad range of social actors such as advocacy groups, power administrators, farmers, and Indigenous leaders, and examine dominant discourses in 50 media documents from the rollout of Representative Simpson's Columbia Basin Initiative to the delivery of President Biden's Infrastructure Package in August 2021. As dam removal proposals arise globally, this critical examination of place-based water conflict illuminates how dam destruction may bring actors together in unanticipated and unprecedented ways.


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