The Demise of Dams for Energy

As we move into this era of Biosphere Consciousness, our need for renewable energy that generates healthful living is clear. Oil and nuclear have already been ticked off as non-renewable. The third source up for careful scrutiny is the use of dams for hydroelectric power. 

The US currently has 75,000 dams. Many are in need of repair or dismantling. In the 1930s, the Hoover Dam was hailed the world over for the boon it claimed to bring to the West. What was not calculated at the time, both for it and thousands of other smaller dams, is that dams are costly to maintain. Twenty-five years after a dam is built, its maintenance costs rise. Today, many power companies are trying to unload old dams that cost more to maintain than they earn from power produced. 

We now know that additional costs for that power include loss of fish habitat, diminishing our food supply; erosion of once fertile valleys; relocation of farms and homes;  and disturbances in vegetation because floods no longer come, providing essential nutrients for river inhabitants. Water held back becomes too warm to support the wildlife nature intended for our rivers.

 Sediment collects behind dams, depriving the rest of the river of a natural habitat layer. As the sediment builds up, it exerts tremendous pressure on the dam, causing the dam to burst unless expensive repairs and dredging are done. A safe, economical way to remove the sediment doesn’t exist.

 If we want fish, birds and other wild life, we need to keep the balance of nature’s diversity intact. Nature continually recycles its energy if we respect its ways. As trees, leaves, wildlife remains, and plants fall into rivers and streams, they provide nutrients, building materials and hiding places that maintain a quality of life in the river. If these materials become trapped in a reservoir behind a dam, they handicap the river’s natural inhabitants.

 Running water naturally purifies itself as it pounds over rocks and keeps moving, continually aerating itself. A reservoir stops that process; the top layer sits and becomes too warm for the life that has evolved to thrive in a free running river. Dams beget more dams. Roads develop around them and in time, neighborhoods and towns begin to lower the water table around them and require more dams downstream, compounding the problem.

 Hydroelectric power generated by damming up rivers with multiple rivers is clearly, along with oil, a non-renewable source of energy whose cost will only increase when dams have to be maintained and those costs are passed on to consumers.

 As we move into this age of Biosphere Consciousness, keeping each other well depends on our ability to be open to new ways of creating renewable energy in our area and saying NO to non-renewable energy. We each need to stay awake to new opportunities of accessing sun, wind, geothermal and other energies that can be collected locally, bundled and shared over networks.

 We do have the technology and the expertise to make the leap to renewable energy, and fund the work (jobs) needed to create the infrastructure.



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