Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Damn Dams

We had the worst winter in a long time last year and now this spring is going into the record books as well. We've had many more tornados than normal including the first EF5 tornado we've seen in 30 years. The EF5 almost completely wiped out the town of Parkersburg, where some of my ancestors came from, and took 8 lives, all of whom were properly tucked away in their basement. Along with the increase in tornadoes we've also gotten rain, lots of it.

This spring reminds me a lot of the one we had back in '93 when the rain melted the winter snows and then kept at it for months on end. That year I played farmer for my parents who were bicycling across the United States with a bunch of other people and I didn't even get into the fields until late June. This year, farmers were able to get into the fields for a week and a half before the rains but have been patiently waiting ever since for them to stop. June is almost a third over already.

Everywhere is flooding right now which brings me to the point of this post. Years ago, the government decided to take pity on those who live near flood plains and control the river with large dams. The dams were supposed to collect water in such times as this spring and gradually release them in times of dryer weather. This worked fine on paper but didn't take into account human nature. Human nature says there is this manmade large lake nearby and wouldn't it be great to build a house on its shore. A little later they think, wouldn't it be nice to have a dock and a boat to enjoy this lake. Then it is complaining to the dam governing agency that the lake it too low to enjoy recreationally. The lake eventually gets turned into a recreational lake instead of a flood control lake. The rains come, the government gets caught with their pants down and now they are forced to release waters at such a rate that they are intentionally flooding those who live downstream. It just doesn't make sense.

Don't get me wrong, I don't pity those who voluntarily chose to live or build in a flood plain any more than those who choose to live in hurricane zones. My beef is that we destroyed beautiful rivers and ecosystems with a plug of concrete all for the sake of controlling flooding and now it is useless against even that. Back in '93 when this same scenario played out, the government told us that the dams were designed to hold back 500-year floods and that the '93 flood only happens once in a thousand years. It's happening again right now, surpassing the '93 flood in some areas and it is only been 15 years. I can't wait to hear what they give as an excuse this time.

No comments: