Back in town, many adults are happy about the building of the dam. The hydroelectric power is cheap, and the economy is booming. Tourists, coming to boat on the lake, have brought a great amount of money to town, and fresh produce from the irrigated fields is pouring into the grocery store. ‘Life is better since the dam was built,’ you can read in their eyes.
The debate over what to do about large hydroelectric dams has raged in the United States since 1935 and the construction of the Hoover Dam, on the Colorado River in Arizona. American Rivers (1989) finds that around 2000 hydro- dams are in operation and about 600,000 of 3.5 million miles, or almost 20 percent, of our rivers lie behind dams. It is uncontested by even the most vocal opponents that these dams, when properly utilized, can provide a wide variety of benefits to mankind, such as: reservoirs for times of drought, water for agricultural irrigation, recreational havens. and as sources for electrical power. As dams retain some two- thirds of our consumed water (Conservation Foundation, l984), irrigate farm lands worth in excess of 9 billion dollars, are visited by almost a billion people a year for recreation (Bureau of Reclamation, 1991), and pro…
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PEGAN, D.J. (1994) “Looking to Liners for Reduced Canal Maintenance at Hydro Projects.” Hydro Review, 9, 64- 71.
RADIGAN, K. (1991) “Dam It All.” Trout, Summer Issue, 28- 46.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, ECONOMICS AND STATISTICS ADMINISTRATION, AND BUREAU OF THE CENSUS. (1991) Eds. P.A. London, H.A. Scarr, and M.L. Turner, Statistical Abstract of the United States, Washington, D.C., pp. 750.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND BUREAU OF RECLAMATION. (1985) Hoover Dam. Washington, D.C., pp. 5G.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND BUREAU OF RECLAMATION. (1991) Summary- Statistics. Washington, D.C., pp. 298.
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Alternatives to Building More Dams
I was intimidated. Actually, let me be honest, I feared a thrashing at the hands of the River God. Trembling muscles warned me to just shoulder my boat and walk. I couldn’t. I traveled all the way from Pennsylvania to run these rivers, how could I back out now? I had to run Sunshine Falls…the largest rapid on the Royal Gorge section of the Arkansas River. When would I make it back to Colorado to run this river? I considered the the portage again; it’s an impressive drop with no shame in walking. But what if they dam the Arkansas?
I had the pleasure of kayaking about fifteen miles of the Arkansas river, in Colorado, this summer. Flowing from its headwaters near Buena Vista, the Arkansas is a virgin river. Only a trickle during the winter, “The Ark,” is reborn every spring with the life bearing waters of fresh mountain snow melt. The greening of river valleys throughout Colorado occurs during the month of June, and traveling from the east I realized how vital the snowmelt waters are to life in the western United States. Without water, something which we take for granted even in brutal summers, life in the west is a struggle.
Now the struggle for the Arkansas begins. Plans to dam the river below the Royal Gorge are pending. Devastating. I can’t imagine the powerful currents of the Arkansas trapped behind an enormous wall of concrete. I find it hard to justify the damming of the Arkansas. It defines recreation for central Colorado.
Kayakers, rafters, and fishermen flock to the Ark for much of the summer. However, Colorado is a state with rapid population growth. People need water reservoirs and electricity from somewhere. Should the Arkansas be one of those sources?
I now realize the ma…
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UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, ECONOMICS AND STATISTICS ADMINISTRATION, AND BUREAU OE THE CENSUS. (1994) Eds. F’.A. London, H.A. Scarr and M.L. Turner, Statistical Abstract of the United States, Washington, D.C., pp. 750.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND BUREAU OF RECLAMATION. (1985) Hoover Dam. Washingto, D.C., pp. 56.
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