Jack Sanchez: We don’t need any more dams
Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert (1986) chronicles the stupidity of building dams on almost every river in the U.S., killing or severely impeding anadromous fish runs everywhere.
California is in the grips of a severe drought as we all know in spite of having almost all of its rivers dammed, none of which have helped to avert this drought nor create more water. The San Joaquin, one of California’s two great rivers, was killed by dams with all its fish in it. Now efforts are underway to attempt a restoration, so far not very successful efforts.
We have two needless dams locally, the North Fork Dam on the American River and the Englebright Dam on the South Yuba River. I say needless because they were both built to restraint any possible mercury and other poisonous chemicals used during the Gold Rush. Now they are pointless, but many folks will fight to the death to keep the North Fork Dam because it creates … Lake Clementine. Others argue removing these needless dams would be too dangerous and expensive. Whatever the arguments, a dam is a dam, an artificial construct that hurts aquatic life. Dam were sold to the public by promising fish hatcheries which are currently found to hurt fish and maybe ultimately kill them by weakening the species by nonselective bucket breeding of eggs and milt.
Dams have done little to provide water for the people. Beavers left to their own would have restrained the water and provided rich agricultural land, great animal habitat and fish pools, shade and food. But beavers were vilified to build pointless dams, which have been built by the hundreds nationwide.
Today, however, we have a most pressing dam issue that all Californians should focus on. Nevada Irrigation District (NID) is trying to build the Parker Reservoir (they don’t dare call it a dam because the public wants no more dams) on the Bear River, the most impacted river in California. NID is a very bad steward on his Auburn Ravine dams and deserved to be stopped dead on the Parker Reservoir.
NID is mistreating the fish in the Auburn Ravine, with two dams, Hemphill and Gold Hill, blocking anadromous fish runs. Blocking anadromous fish runs is against the law. The Auburn Ravine has fall run chinook, winter and spring run salmon, either endangered or threatened runs, and NID is ignoring them, delaying, doing nothing to save the salmon and steelhead in Auburn Ravine.
Why would any rational department of government allow NID to be permitted to build another needless dam when it is currently breaking the law on Auburn Ravine? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) agency is charged with overseeing inland anadromous fishes; I cannot believe NOAA will allow NID to build Parker Dam, but what our federal government will do is not always predictable.
The prime motive of NID, if one were to guess, is probably for profit, bottom line, money. California as we all know is in a recurring drought so NID is using the drought to attempt building this needless dam. Dams do not create more water. California is an arid state with seven-year cycles of dry and wet historically. This cycle may have existed for ions, but this cycle existed in the absence of dams.
Many people are encouraged to show up for the Thursday meeting in which NID Board Member Nick Wilcox tries to convince the public NID needs this unneeded dam. The meeting I am asking you to attend and speak against the Parker Reservoir is from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday in the Gene Albaugh Community Room at the Madelyn Helling Library, 980 Helling Way, Nevada City.
Please attend, voice your opposition to Parker Reservoir and the neglect NID has showered on the fishes in Auburn Ravine. Stop NID from building a needless dam under the guise of creating more water for its customers while imperiling more threatened and endangered anadromous fish while ignoring its responsibility to the fishes in Auburn Ravine, a waterway it usurps to deliver water to its customer hurting its fishes.
Stop Parker Dam and direct NID to create fish passage on Gold Hill and Hemphill Dams currently blocking anadromous fish runs.
Jack L. Sanchez lives in Auburn.
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