DAMS MAY NOT BE SUCH A GOOD IDEA
ecoparadigm is an environmental approach accepted by the public without
objective and critical review of its value or consideration for doing
it differently. A pervasive ecoparadigm is that damming rivers is economically
are generally viewed as positive for a community or region. The fact
that Hoover Dam and the Aswan High Dam were voted among the world's
Top Ten Construction Achievements of the last century supports the belief.
The fact that the concrete industry took the poll probably had some
impact on the rankings.
Hoover, aka Boulder, Dam on the Colorado River is a good starting point
for positive features of dams. Hydroelectric power can be an asset.
The creation of recreational reservoirs, like Lake Mead, is viewed as
positive. Downstream flood control of agricultural areas has also been
given as a reason for building dams, as with the development of the
Imperial Valley below Hoover Dam.
dam critics question whether the benefits, not only of building dams
but also of keeping all the ones we have, warrant the environmental
costs. Dams on big rivers unquestionably have put numerous animal species
spirit of challenging an ecoparadigm, consider the recreational opportunities
created by dams. Hunters, hikers, and bird-watchers would get far more
recreation from 50,000 acres of woodlands and small wetlands than from
the same amount of boring open water. Don't more people enjoy woods
than reservoirs? I do not suggest eliminating all artificial lakes and
reservoirs, but perhaps it's time to consider which environment would
serve us best.
of political illogic is that not building a dam can cost jobs. That
argument was used at Tellico Dam where construction was delayed by the
presence of the snail darter, a little fish thought to be endangered.
Creating jobs should not be an excuse for building a dam. We could create
jobs equally well by removing dams. Dam deconstruction would mean jobs
for people to build new roads in the drained area and to replant the
costs are a major strike against dams. Fish such as sturgeon that swim
up and down rivers have their geographic ranges abruptly truncated by
a dam. For fish like American eels and salmon that spend part of their
life in saltwater and part in fresh, encountering a dam can have serious
consequences. In addition, the changes in flow patterns, increased siltation
and turbidity, and fluctuating water levels have been shown to cause
severe disruption to the river habitat. The loss of rare freshwater
clams and mussels is appalling.
we accept the negative consequences of dam building when positive returns
seem minimal? Much of the problem rests with pork barrel politics, a
process that seldom serves the country as well as it does the pocketbooks
of politicians and their friends. And once one of these dam projects
is approved in Congress, bureaucratic inertia sets in. Halting construction,
even though the negative aspects far outweigh positive returns, is an
will agree that dam building has few redeeming qualities. Some people
will mention flood control for urban areas, a commonly used excuse for
constructing dams. But does an upstream dam really protect the floodplain
of a river from flooding? Do we really have many dammed rivers that
have not also had flooding disasters downstream? Do dams simply delay
the economic disasters of major floods rather than prevent them forever?
Ask the people downstream who have survived a broken dam if the trauma
was worth the protection offered against a few years of minor flooding.
Is the protection-from-flooding feature attributed to river dams simply
another ecoparadigm - blind acceptance without objective evaluation
of the true worth?
the whole process associated with constructing river dams would be healthy.
Shall we stop building dams and even demolish a few already in place?
Removing dams would make for healthier river ecosystems and also create
lots of jobs.
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