America, Tear Down Your Useless Dams
Yvon Chouinard: Removing them is much better than repairing them
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2014 12:39 PM CDT
In this file photo, water flows over the damaged Marcy Dam in the Adirondacks in Lake Placid, N.Y.   (AP Photo/Mary Esch, file)

(Newser) – American engineers have long loved their dams, but Yvon Chouinard writes in the New York Times that we should be tearing down these aging concrete behemoths instead of repairing them. Of the 80,000 or so dams in the nation, 26,000 pose serious safety hazards, he writes, and only about 1,750 actually produce hydropower. "Many no longer serve any real purpose," he says, and, in fact, do nothing but degrade the environment in myriad ways.

"We’ve glorified them for decades, but our pride in building these engineering marvels has often blinded us to the environmental damage they cause," writes Chouinard, founder of the clothing and gear manufacturer Patagonia, and executive producer of new documentary DamNation. On top of that, tearing these structures down can rejuvenate communities along a river's course. That's why he faults the Energy Department for suggesting last week that the US consider new dams on rivers and streams. "Put simply, many dams have high environmental costs that outweigh their value," he writes. "Removing them is the only sensible answer." Click for his full column.

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Showing 3 of 28 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
May 13, 2014 4:10 PM CDT
Well, we've all seen the Audubon society specials on dams. One was on the horrible things that happened with the Hoover Dam. In a way, its true the power is replaceable because Lake Mead has suffered a horrible drought. But for the decades it has existed, it provided water for crops that fed America. Most of all, it put thousands of impoverished men back to work. Yes, it was legalized slavery but at least they had jobs. But when Lake Mead went down, it opened up formerly hidden caves and valleys. Now there are some dams I agree should have never been built. One was Mulholland's Foley. The engineer said, "Its ok, dams leak sometimes." Then it sprung a horrible leak right in the middle. "Well, its still ok, don't worry about it." Then it burst and flooded hundreds of miles including towns killing 450 people. Now its just a nice valley with a stream and some remnants of the old dam. The Indians protest the Klamath river dam. There are films of the ancient Indian fisheries and salmon runs slowing being flooded. The Glines Canyon dam removal was one of the most significant projects done. It restored old fishing runs along with ecology for a hundred miles.
JERZJOE
May 11, 2014 10:18 AM CDT
DAM !!! DAM!!! has anyone have no concept of a DAM!! DAM IT!!!
rickydarlin
May 11, 2014 9:06 AM CDT
there is a GUY named YVON.............................SHEEEEESH