Conservation Minnesota

Freeing Up Rivers

There is a movement going on around the countryside, and one that’s good for free-flowing natural systems.  Dams are being removed from rivers all over the United States, as many have outlived whatever usefulness they originally were built for.

Of course, for most conservationists, many rivers should never have dams foisted upon them.  So, in this new era of licensing for hydropower and flood control, owners of dams, whether public or private, are carefully weighing if they are worth the constant cost of maintenance.

You may have read or seen the recent dismantling of the Elewa river dam in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state.  Most of the dam removal has taken place in the far west part of the country, but the east, and especially Maine on the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers, have had high-profile removals also.

Minnesota has had it’s share, and I just read where Excel Energy wants to remove the Minnesota Falls dam near Granite Falls next year.  The canoeists and kayakers among you probably remember the dam removals on the Kettle near Sandstone, and the Cannon near Welch.

These removals free a river to allow what it does best:  Flow downstream, as nature intended it, allowing continuous fish passage, floodplain renewal, and recreational passage for enthusiastic paddlers.  Surely some dams serve a useful purpose and are necessary for various purposes, but I like freedom, and not constraint, so give me a free-flowing river anytime and let me dream of the magic in the waters.

About John Helland

John Helland
John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.
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