Exeter Great Dam Removal and River Restoration

Exeter, NH

Constructed in 1914, the Great Dam in Exeter, New Hampshire, was outdated, unsafe, impacted water quality, and affected ecological integrity within the Exeter River. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) identified several safety problems with the Great Dam, most notably its inability to pass the 50-year storm event with adequate freeboard. VHB served as the lead consultant for this project, starting with a Feasibility and Impact Analysis, continuing through the subsequent design and permitting phase, and ultimately through the construction phase. The goals of this project were to reduce threats to public safety, improve fish passage, and increase oxygen levels in the water—all while respecting history, stakeholder concerns, and the river’s ecosystem.

VHB provided multi-disciplinary consulting services, including survey and engineering design, environmental analysis and permitting, cultural resource evaluation and mitigation, and construction observation services. Among one of the largest dam removals in New Hampshire, the $1.8-million project involved removing the entire existing dam spillway, including the fish ladder and lower dam.

VHB helped the Town of Exeter win more than $800,000 in state and federal grant funds to offset the removal cost to the community. In addition, VHB has supported the Town in receiving two more grants that will help complete a feasibility study to evaluate solutions for deficiencies in the upstream Pickpocket Dam.

Houses line the bank of the Exeter River after the Great Dam has been removed.


  • Town of Exeter


  • Construction Monitoring

  • Cultural Resources Assessment

  • Engineering Design

  • Environmental Services

  • Grant Research & Application Writing

  • Land Survey

  • Permitting


  • 2017 ACEC New Hampshire Engineering Excellence Award