The Downfall of Dams

Harper Frye, Staff Writer

Dams, among numerous other man-made objects, pose an existential threat to what lies beneath. Despite popular opinion, dams have a substantial negative impact that outweighs its human-geared positives. Yes, dams do provide us with a more reliable, efficient, and clean way of getting energy, but when vigorously studying the advantages and disadvantages, this “certainty” is not worth the trouble. In fact, it may not even be totally accurate.

One of the biggest issues discussed when debating whether dams are positive or negative is the impact these dams have on the wildlife. In areas like flat basins, the build up of water imposed by large dams can cause sudden flooding of land and destroy local habitats, including the animals living there. The migratory patterns of native species in the river, such as salmon, become distorted. Most migratory fish, such as our famous sockeye salmon, return to their breeding grounds after their long and vigorous life journey. However, some fish cannot return home to breed due to dams blocking their migratory pattern. Animals living in the rivers are also susceptible to the increase in water temperatures. Because dams are a heat sink, the water above the dam is much hotter than the natural river water below. When this water is liberated from the dam downstream, it affects the wildlife already living there. Higher temperatures in water hurt marine life. Not to mention, changes in water levels can kill shoreline animals as well.

It is not just the wildlife that is greatly affected: we are, too. Dams pose a threat to humans. If one were to break, there would be a great number of casualties. Dams could break due to earthquakes or even extreme flows of water from rainfall or even flooding. The building of dams near homes has even been said to lead to emotional scarring. Some people are uprooted from their homes due to the extensive building of dams. On top of that, dams can lead to increase in disease from the amounts of mosquitoes that breed there. It has been estimated that dams produce more greenhouse gases than burning fossil fuels. The list goes on. Even farmers who live downstream suffer from the effects of dams. The decrease in flooding affects their planting.

Despite their increasingly obvious detrimental impacts, dams do have some advantages and, for this reason, people are looking for a way to redesign dams in such a way that they carry less detrimental impact. This way, we can minimize the effects dams have on both people and the environment, but still utilize its benefits. When dealing with such a controversial topic such as dams, it is easy to get lost in the sides of the argument, such as the positives and negatives I discussed in this very article. However, it is important for us to remember that with these more intricate topics, there is bound to be some faulty effect. Nothing is perfect, so if we can remodel a dam that takes care of some of the bad, then we may be one step closer to saving our Earth from extinction, which is something I think we all want.