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The role of place meanings in opposition to water-related infrastructure projects: the case of the Mactaquac Dam, New Brunswick, Canada

Kate H Reilly, Department of Bioresource Engineering, McGill University
Jan F Adamowski, Department of Bioresource Engineering, McGill University
Kimberly John, McGill University


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Place attachment is often associated with opposition to infrastructure projects that change the characteristics of locations, including dam construction and removal. It has been suggested that in circumstances in which a project’s perceived impacts are compatible with prevailing tangible place meanings, projects can be accepted even where local place attachment is strong. Here, we focus on the role of intangible place meanings in opposition to and acceptance of the potential removal of the Mactaquac Dam in New Brunswick, Canada. Based on interviews with 32 local stakeholders, we identified a range of place meanings related to community and personal identity. Continuity over time, community distinctiveness, and the role of various activities and experiences in developing identity were key themes. Those who wanted to retain the dam and those who wanted to remove the dam shared many meanings and only diverged in two community meanings. We suggest that conflict between the two groups may either be primarily based in different tangible meanings but escalated by the more emotional tangible meanings or that the two diverging community meanings were highly important. Further studies should investigate the specific role of intangible meanings in conflict where place attachment is strong.

Key words

case study; conflict; dams; identity; place meaning

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087