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The removal of obsolete and unsafe dams for safety, environmental, or economic purposes frequently involves the exploration of sediments trapped within the impoundment and the subsequent assessment of sediment management needs and techniques. Sediment management planning requires a thorough understanding of the watershed’s surficial geology, topography, land cover, land use, and hydrology. The behavior of sediments is influenced by their age, consolidation, and stratigraphy. All watersheds have a history that helps forecast sediment loads, quality, gradation, and stratigraphy. Impounded sediment deposits may include coarse deltas and foreset slopes, fine or coarse bottom deposits, cohesive or organic matter, and wedge deposits immediately behind the dam. Some watersheds have anthropogenic pollutants from agricultural activities, mining, industries, or urban runoff.

The volume and rate of sediment release during and after small dam removal can be limited by active management plans to reduce potential downstream impacts. Management strategies include natural erosion, phased breaches and drawdowns, natural revegetation of sediment surfaces, pre-excavation of an upstream channel, hazardous waste removal or containment, flow bypass plans, and sediment dredging.

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