Tuesday, August 05, 2008

And the dam came tumbling down...another one

Dams are falling everywhere, this time it's the Merrimack Dam in New Hampshire. This is an old dam, originally built in the 1730s to power industry, including a sawmill, gristmill, and bridge. Now in disrepair and unused, it's a river-harming anachronism and it's gotta go!

Thankfully, it will go. Click here for a live dam cam, and watch the action.

Removal of this dam is good news brought to you by the awesome people at American Rivers, and I don't just say that because they hired me for a few jobs in the mid-90's.

I'm glad to offer some success stories to you pessimists out there. I hope you notice that some things do get better, like rivers that improve when bad old dams are removed. Note that I'm not saying all dams should come out. These dam removal projects are the win-win scenarios that are leading the way for productive removal of harmful dams, and replacement of dam benefits where some benefits remain.

Check out the Milltown Dam in Montana, the Marmot Dam in Oregon, and others including the grandaddy dam removal project for the US, the Elwha Dam in Washington now set to come out in 2009. I can hardly wait.

2 comments:

Wolfman said...

A CUP HALF FULL...Taking out these dams, including the one on the Merrimac, is a great thing and a step in the right direction toward restoring natural water flows, but its not enough. In the case of the Merrimac, for example, it is litterly a case of a cup (river) half full (or empty). Even with the dam removed, much of the water that once flowed through the Merrimac to the ocean will still no longer do so. Much of it, more than half, if I recall correctly is now diverted for other purposes and not returned to the river. Once, the Merrimac was the largest freshwater input into the Gulf of Maine, today it is a trickle of its former self. What you might ask is now the largest "freshwater source" into the Gulf of Maine?...Believe it or not, it is the Massachusettes Water Resources Authority (MWRA-Metropolitan Boston) Deer Island Sewage Treatment outfall nine miles offshore. Does that make me a pessimist? No. I just think we need to do more. Wolfman.

Mark Powell said...

Agreed, these dams are not the only problem (I assume, since I don't know the river). Inadequate water flow can be a huge problem, agreed.

One useful point is to say that, in my experience, high visibility restoration efforts like dam removal can help build momentum towards addressing other problems. Also, taking out a dam can remove an excuse that water withdrawers use to argue against leaving more water in a river.