as summarized in an article in today's NYTimes, we are entering an era of dam removal on our nation's waterways. construction went wild in the 1950s and 1960s, with a dam being completed every six minutes with the ostensible purpose of providing flood control, hydroelectricity, irrigation water and recreation. in the process riparian valleys were drowned, interrupting native fish migration, wildlife populations, and the periodic scouring of the river bottom by seasonal floods, key to preventing the buildup of silt and the eventual suffocation of entire ecosystems.
now an estimated 75,000 aging smaller dams are being gradually dismantled -- they have become economic liabilities, their repair and upkeep outpacing the benefit of any electricity produced. the changes have been immediate and positive, with the return of wildlife and native fish, and the enhanced recreational opportunities for kayakers, campers, photographers and fishermen. i've long been an advocate of getting rid of anything which interferes with natural processes. we humans are part of nature, not its conquerors. it is up to us to be smart enough to avoid building houses in 500-year flood plains, to develop clean energy from replaceable sources like solar, wind and geothermal power, and ultimately to be responsible stewards for this miraculous garden planet which sustains us all.