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

(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.

In this file photo, water flows over the damaged Marcy Dam in the Adirondacks in Lake Placid, N.Y.   (AP Photo/Mary Esch, file)
Tree trunks and other debris left from flooding lie on the tail deck of the Old Hickory Dam in Nashville, Tenn., in this 2010 file photo.   (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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