To the Editor:
Mr. Ritter had some comments on the dams and their removal (Letter to the Editor on July 3), I just want people to know the facts from someone who uses the river and from people who have studied these dams and their negative effects on the ecosystem.
According to the Hydropower Reform Coalition (HRC), a consortium of 150 groups concerned about the impact of dams, degraded water quality is one of the chief concerns. Organic materials from within and outside the river that would normally wash downstream get built up behind dams and start to consume a large amount of oxygen as they decompose. In some cases this triggers algae blooms which, in turn, create oxygen-starved “dead zones” incapable of supporting river life of any kind.
Safety experts have described these lowhead dams, as “drowning machines.” The problem: The pool of water behind a dam starts to move more quickly as it approaches the narrower area where it will drop 1 to 15 feet. As water spills over what’s usually a concrete structure, it creates a recirculating current that keeps victims trapped underneath in the turbulent waters. After heavy rains, these dams exacerbate the problem and create turbulence that even rescue personnel cannot navigate.
Across the USA, more than 500 deaths have occurred since 1953 — including a Marine veteran in Texas who saved two teens in June but died himself. Locally, in 2006, Craig and Patricia Wenner drowned at the Englewood low dam. Craig, 50, a manager with Five Rivers MetroParks, died trying to save his wife, also 50, after she entered the Stillwater River to rescue their Labrador retriever puppy. In an ironic twist, Craig, an expert in construction projects, was to be the MetroParks manager of a $1.2 million project that ultimately removed the low dam
Industrial development, flood control, Irrigation, and electricity production used to be the few benefits of dams … of which neither of these dams are used for.
Mr. Ritter mentioned that motors cannot be used if the dams are removed … Interesting because if that were a valid argument then everyone currently downstream of a dam could argue just the opposite. To also prove my point, I use the river systems extensively in this area and I use a motor; all of my use is downstream of the dams. There are places in this river system, unaffected by a dam, where the water is too shallow for a motor; these will improve or remain unchanged when the dams are removed. There are equally as many places where my motor does just fine.
This is long overdue for change; put the rivers back the way God created them and leave them alone.
— Sam Weiss