How many times have these same dam-related questions been answered and for how many years? The answers are: thousands and for a decade.
In fact, the funds originally allocated by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for public comment were exhausted; requiring a supplemental allocation and delaying the project significantly.
No honest person can say that this project wasn’t exhaustively vetted. Clearly, it’s time to pull the trigger. The dam never fulfilled its original purpose, it impedes the natural migration of fish, requires expensive maintenance and contributed to the death of 50-plus people.
Despite that, the same debunked arguments remain.
Those that think that the river will run dry, like it did decades ago, should know that on the driest day of August, millions of gallons of treated wastewater are released into the river.
With water usage/runoff to the north increasing, the river won’t run dry. They want to open the floodgate to confirm that the impounded part of the river will narrow between ugly mucky banks; of course it will. “See!” they’ll cry.
Fortunately, the notching plan and the open floodgate experiment have little in common. One offers a comprehensive plan developed by experts. The other offers an inconclusive experiment with the potential for unintended consequences.
They say that dam notching will increase the mosquito population. On the contrary, the notch will increase stream velocity and oxygenation. Mosquitoes like stagnant pools (similar to what we have above the dam and in Swan Pond when it is flooded), not fast water and riffles, like we have below the dam.
Eliminating the slack water pool above the dam and providing a way to drain Swam Pond will reduce suitable mosquito harborage areas. Because fish eat mosquito larvae, increased fish populations above the dam will help to battle mosquitoes in a natural, efficient, non-toxic way.
Some argue that the dam should stay so that toxic soil remains undisturbed. They ignore the fact that the dam caused the initial and continued accumulation of contaminated soil. Some also discount the plan to remediate toxic sediment. They worry about the temporary construction mess. So what? Inconvenience and dust are the price that we pay to live in a town with old, dangerous, toxic and obsolete structures.
The root purpose of the project is to let nature take its course. There are about nine species of fish above the dam, and at least 21 species of fish below the dam; what should that tell you?
In terms of abundance of fish, there are more than triple the amount below the dam than above it. The poorly oxygenated water above the dam is practically a dead zone; hosting only the “roughest” species. That lovely, oxygen-depleted “lagoon” can’t sustain marine, benthic, macro-invertebrates, or the little fish that feed on them, or the big fish that feed on little fish, or the birds that feed on fish, etc. If allowed to do so, with help from the IDNR and the USACE, nature can heal itself.
Given the choice of lining up behind either Team IDNR/USACE or Team Spatny/Ray, I choose to follow the lead of accomplished professionals operating in their respective fields of expertise.
The numerous key public meetings and studies have been completed. Based on scientific data, concerns of stakeholders, and taking into consideration the specific characteristics of the work sites, it is abundantly clear that the plan proposed is the best option. I don’t doubt the dam proponents’ sincerity, but some of the arguments are so redundant, so late, so self-righteous, and so lame that the time has come to say, “Thank you for sharing your opinion. Stay out of the way of the backhoe.”
Howard A. Brundage IV is a Riverside resident.