[Homestead] Environment---river dams vs. fish

tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Sun Sep 26 14:11:46 EDT 2004


Too many ill-designed dams, with no fish-ladders  to facilitate safe 
fish migration up and downstream---reason why Atlantic salmon 
disappeared and Pacific salmon vastly diminished .  Damned good idea to 
destroy as man totally useless river dams as possible.
Let the Neversink River run free---as free as possible, considering New 
York City demand on the Neversink as a water supply.


	

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September 26, 2004 	
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THE NATION
Neversink River Freed to Run Its Old Course
* The Cuddebackville dam in the Catskills, which has been abandoned for 
decades, is being torn down in a concession to nature.

 
  			
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Cuddesbackville dam 
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Cuddesbackville dam 
<http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-catskilldam_i4iicbkf,1,3354358.photo?coll=la-home-headlines> 

(The Nature Conservancy)
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By Robert Lee Hotz, Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- By the banks of the birthplace of American fly-fishing, 
backhoes are demolishing a dam that for nearly a century has blocked the 
easy flow of the Neversink River.

The Cuddebackville dam in the Catskills is being pulled down by the 
Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a 
$2.2-million project that is among dozens of dam demolition efforts 
underway this year across the country. The Corps of Engineers, long the 
nation's preeminent dam-builder, is learning to become its 
dam-eradicator also.

  	
	 
  	
	
	
	 
  	
	 
 

Never before has any dam in New York state been demolished solely for 
sake of the environment. In the muddy aftermath of hurricane-related 
flooding last week, which swelled the Neversink flow to 50 times normal, 
a construction crew continued to dismantle the low-lying, 107-foot dam. 
A third of it has been torn down so far.

Already, the fish are swimming freely.

"We have the dam breached; we have fish past the dam for the first 
time," in decades said aquatic ecologist Colin Apse at the Conservancy's 
Neversink River project office.

The Cuddebackville dam is among 60 being torn down this year in 14 
states, including California, as part of a growing movement to clear 
rivers of defunct barriers, according to American Rivers, an 
environmental group in Washington, D.C.

More than 77,000 dams straddle streams nationwide; at least 7,000 in New 
York state alone.

Few waterways, however, so neatly illustrate the paradox of coexistence 
between nature and urban life as the Neversink, a tributary of the 
Delaware River that flows about 90 miles north of New York City.

No other stream in the 13,000-square miles of the Delaware River 
watershed is so pristine or occupies such a special place in the history 
of angling. Yet it is also heavily integrated into the plumbing of a 
major metropolitan region.

Every time a New Yorker takes a bath, they take a dip in the Neversink. 
Every glass of Manhattan tap water, every sprinkle from a Staten Island 
showerhead, every Brooklyn toilet flush, begins, in part, with a chilly 
rivulet clear as gin cascading from the Neversink River.

The headwaters of the Neversink are cached upstream in a 
35-billion-gallon reservoir and then channeled through the world's 
longest continuous underground tunnel to become the single cleanest 
source of water for the city of 8 million.

Even so, the waters below the reservoir are hailed as one of the world's 
finest wild trout fisheries. There, anglers in the 1840s developed the 
lures and other techniques that set fly-fishing in the New World apart 
from the more placid practices of Europe.

Its swift currents nurture brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, 
alewife and shad. The world's healthiest population of endangered dwarf 
wedge mussels lives below the dam. Osprey and eagles nest in the 
overhanging trees.

The Cuddebackville dam, 40 miles downstream from the reservoir, was 
built in 1915 to feed local canals for barge traffic and to generate 
hydropower. It was abandoned in 1945.

By tearing it down, the Conservancy and the Corps are striving to 
balance often competing worlds.

"Instead of turning back the clock to Christopher Columbus, we are 
trying to balance a healthy environment against expanding human needs," 
said George Schuler, director of the Conservancy's Delaware River program.

"We are not going to have a truly natural river, but we will get 
conditions that are good enough that all the native species can thrive," 
Schuler said. "If we can make it more ecologically sustainable, this 
will be one of the few places [in the East] that really is a healthy, 
intact functioning river."

Indeed, when workers are finished hauling away the last of the dam 
debris, they will have opened an additional 40 miles of the river to the 
seasonal traffic jams of migrating shad, long denied access to their 
historical spawning ground.

But New York's water supply reservoir upstream will stay in place, 
Schuler said. Consequently, the Neversink will remain a river of compromise.

Its natural ebb and flow will continue to be tempered by the 
intermittent dam releases and the demand for drinking water in New York. 
Nor can the other effects of 200 years of human habitation be so easily 
overcome. Anglers are warned that their catch may be toxic, because of 
mercury contamination.

In a modest way, several environmental activists said, the effort along 
the Neversink to balance the metropolitan thirst for clean water against 
the needs of the environment echoes a debate coming to a head in 
Northern California over the fate of the Hetch Hetchy dam in Yosemite 
National Park, arguably the most controversial dam in the United States.

The Hetch Hetchy Valley was flooded in the 1920s when the Tuolumne River 
was dammed to create a reservoir for the San Francisco Bay Area.

On Monday, the Environmental Defense group in Sacramento expects to 
release a 300-page engineering analysis detailing cost-effective ways to 
drain and restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley, while continuing to supply 
the Bay Area with high-quality water and power from the Tuolumne River.

Activists hope the restoration could form part of a $3.2-billion water 
system overhaul that San Francisco is already planning.

To be sure, the headwaters of the Neversink do not conceal natural 
wonders comparable to the Hetch Hetchy Valley, which is said to rival 
Yosemite itself in scenic beauty. Instead, they conceal the ruins of 
Bittersweet, a village submerged by its rising waters a generation ago.

Even so, the removal of a relatively modest steel-reinforced concrete 
dam like the Cuddebackville structure is complex, time-consuming and 
expensive.

This year, engineers detonated 600 tons of explosives to breach the 
Embrey Dam on Virginia's Rappahannock River. The endangered mussels that 
make their home in the habitat of the Neversink, however, called for a 
more delicate touch.

"There are a lot of unknowns," said Brian Mulvenna, project manager at 
the Corp's five-state Philadelphia district, which supervises the 
region's waterways. "The river has to adapt to the changed conditions."

The conservancy has agreed to monitor stream conditions for five years, 
to see how the river and the creatures that call it home adjust to the 
resumption of natural flow.

"This is a great project, simply for the fact that it is being done for 
environmental reasons," said Serena McClain, who works at American 
Rivers. "The Corps spent decades destroying rivers; now it is restoring 
them."

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