Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Essay on Dams

Essay on Effects of Dams on Our Enviornment

What is a dam? A dam is defined as any obstruction, wall or embankment, constructed for the purpose of storing water. Dams can be constructed of earth, concrete, wood or rock. Dams can provide many benefits such as water supply, flood control, hydroelectric power, fishing and recreation. However, dams can also be a great threat to the safety and well being of downstream property and people if they are not properly constructed or maintained.

Dams’ primary reason of being built is to provide water for irrigation and hydropower. Although their efficiency if nowhere near as high as most would think. They only supply about 4% of our region’s low priced electric power. It makes one think is 4% of our low priced electric power more important than the environment the dam kills and even the living species within this environment? (2)

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There are many disadvantages to building dams. Generally dams:
  • deplete natural settings
  • flood the spawning grounds of fish
  • inhibit the seasonal migration of fish
  • threaten and endanger some species of fish and mussels
  • flood archaeological sites or ancestral burial grounds
  • can foster diseases if unkempt (6)
Dams cause the deaths of many young fishes, especially salmon migrating downstream after hatching. These youngsters are susceptible to predators and nitrogen gas bubble disease caused by the dam. This in turn makes it much harder for salmon to reproduce, keeping the population in good standing. Dams can easily reduce the size of the salmon community. (1)

Not only do they affect animals but they can affect us as well. They can displace us when they are built, forcing us to move from our homes. Dams can also affect our beaches, which many enjoy; by trapping the sediment we are starving the beaches of a sediment source.

An example of a particular dam and it affects would be the Cougar Dam on the McKenzie River. About a year ago the dam was undergoing a fix up, involving lowering the level of water in the reservoir. For months the river had become a muddy mess. It affected everybody, specifically those who would normally take advantage of the trout fishing season. Normally people would be reeling in 30 to 40 trout a day but many had to travel to different rivers to fish. Grocery store owners experienced a decline in sales, close to $10,000 in one month. (5)

Not only did this affect the people but the water now flowing into the river is eroding the banks, cutting through the mud. The fish and other wildlife weren’t directly harmed, but they may be affected by the affect it has on the bugs. The bugs are dying which the fish rely on during the winter, which will in turn kill the fish. (5)

Another example of how dams affect the environment around it is the in the Snake River. Wild Salmon have been returning to the river less and less each year.

Breaching the dam has become an option. Breaching the dams would restore endangered wild salmon, return traditional sites and fisheries to Indian tribes and improve water quality. Many argue that the breaching of dams will result in an enormous loss in jobs. Yes, jobs will be lost but not forever. Only 711 jobs would be lost within Washington, Oregon and Idaho (where the Snake Dams are located). Statistically half will find replacement jobs in less than eight week. The consequences may look dreadful but they are short-lived. (2)

Breaching the dam will result in a brighter future for generations to come to enjoy the river and the salmon and the life it brings back to the Snake River.

Another example of an insufficient hydroelectric dam would be in Hawaii. Hydropower depends on a reliable flow of water to produce electricity. In Hawaii the flow is never constant therefore the efficiency of the dam would fluctuate. Hawaiians worry that the dams will flood environmentally sensitive areas and historic sites. They also fear that the reduction of the amount of water flowing downstream will result in damage of plants and animals that live in and around the stream. These fears are understandable and inevitable for these Hawaiians. (3)

Dams are made for all the right reasons, to better mankind, to help us become a more energy efficient nation. Harming species, destroying land, and killing fish with the turbines are just risks that we must take. No. I refuse to believe that killing wildlife and destroying our environment is necessary for our survival. Conserving our environment and helping nature’s children is what we need for survival. Our environment is our home, no one wants to see a huge cement dam where there used to be trees and animals living together. If dams weren’t so destructive then there would be a lot more then there are. Dams are obviously bad or else it wouldn’t be such a controversial issue. We must save our fish and our river banks and stop building dams.

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