“What once seemed radical is now mainstream,” said American Rivers President Bob Irvin, whose group has advocated dam removal for environmental reasons. “All of these are experiments in how nature can restore itself, and the Elwha is the biggest example of that.” The pace of removal has quickened, with 241 dams demolished between 2006 and 2010, more than a 40 percent increase over the previous five years. Many of them are in the East and Midwest, having powered everything, including textile mills and paper operations at the turn of the 20th century. A drumbeat of litigation by tribes and environmental groups has pushed federal officials to dismantle some dams that otherwise would have remained in place. Although this has led to political fights in regions where dams matter the most, such as the Pacific Northwest, it has also forged historic compromises.“The Elwha River restoration marks a new era of river restoration in which broad community support provides the bedrock for work to sustain our rivers and the communities that rely on them,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. Although estimates vary on the economic value of restoring a river’s natural flow, it creates construction jobs in the short term and eventually restores depleted commercial fisheries. It also draws tourists — anglers, rafters and kayakers. Federal officials estimate that restoring the Elwha river will generate at least 760 jobs during the clean up which will take over two years, and 446 annual jobs in recreation and tourism once it’s finished.Demolishing dams is not popular with some State and Federal policy makers. But, considering that Dams once played an outsize role in the nation’s energy supply, providing 40 percent of U.S. electricity in 1940. Now they account for 7 to 10 percent, with only 3 percent of the nation’s dams with adequate generating capacity. And, many policy makers do not consider the cost of the electricity when the dam upkeep is taken into the equation. We recently visited the Bonneville dam, two dams, actually because they are spread from a man made river Island to both banks of the Columbia. The dam impedes boat and barge transportation. In fact, the locks, are no longer used because there isn’t enough boat transportation to keep them running.
Glen Canyon Dam, was built in 1966. It supplies recreation on Lake Powell, but the dam destroyed some of the most beautiful scenery on the Colorado River. Senator Goldwater pushed for the project and later stated if he had seen the scenery before he voted he wouldn’t have voted for it. It doesn’t supply significant electricity, but it does provide recreation. The problem is it keeps natural silt from the river and the native plants and fish are suffering. It is costing millions to counteract the affects of the dam on the Grand Canyon.
Even though laws mandate mitigation for lost habitat, we still have overgrazed, over fished, flood prone, destroyed wetlands, because of dams. Unfortunately, not much is being done. Costs to maintain the dams are often not considered in the proposals to build dams because riparian rights are not recognized by our political system.
My rant for the day.