I was recently speaking with a St. Lawrence University faculty member about my blog topic of dams and she exclaimed, “But could you imagine if we built another dam as large as the Hoover Dam? We would never do that!” It would seem improbable that a project as enormous as the Hoover Dam, which was built by the US government during the Great Depression, would be built today… but we are.
As I have written in previous blogs, there are a lot of dams out there, and everyone feelstheir effects. Dams create recreation areas, reservoirs for water storage, hydroelectric energy and control floods. They also create issues such as ecological degradation, relocation of people, loss of commercial fish spawning habitat and other risks such as flooding, landslides and potential for collapse. It seems that dams affect almost all of us, yet receive very little news coverage.
In the final days of August 2011, Tropical Storm Irene swept across the Eastern Seaboard. The storm dropped 3-5 inches of rain in New York and Vermont and even more than 7 in some areas causing extreme flooding, sweeping away whole houses at a time, undermining roads and destroying bridges. 13 people were left dead in New York and Vermont and over 700 million dollars left in damages of bridges and dams only in Vermont. I got to visit one of the hardest hit areas, with out really knowing it in the spring of 2013 when I visited a friend in Woodstock, VT.
Living at St. Lawrence University, in Canton, NY, I live within 15 miles of 26 dams that are at least 25 feet tall. This sounds like a ton of dams, yet this region of Northern New York is one of the least densely dammed areas in the state. Several of these dams are on the Raquette River, which runs through the town of Potsdam, about 10 miles away from Canton. The Raquette River extends for 146 miles through the Adirondack Mountains and has approximately 25 dams. That averages out to about a dam every six miles. Of course this varies and there are dams that are much closer and much farther away than six miles, either way, this seems like a lot.
Rivers are supposed to flow freely. Stopping that water can create many issues for the surrounding environment and people. According to International Rivers, sediment build up, ecosystems change and human relocation are just some of the issues associated with dams.
The one thing that slipped my mind as I planned my research in Nepal: power cuts. In comparison to my last visit, there is a schedule for the daily power cuts. They of course are not the same everyday but at least they do not cut out whenever the Nepal Electric Authority feels like it.