Dams have a notorious reputation; there’s a long history of environmental damage caused by dams, from blocking migrating fish to withdrawing access to Indigenous people.
It’s safe to say that the controversy surrounding dams is a complicated one. In a surprising move, many conservation groups are now working with the hydropower industry to find common ground. There is a good opportunity here to upgrade some existing dams to generate power, while also tearing down inefficient dams and making others more fish-friendly.
“The hydropower structures that we have, some make more sense than others. Some do bigger damage than others. Some generate more [energy] than others. In some places, we’re going to have to invest in infrastructure. But let’s also invest in undoing some things that never should have been done in the first place,” explains Curtis Knight, CalTrout’s Executive Director in a recent article on hydropower in the LA Times.
Recently, a $64-billion-dollar proposal was made between conservationists and the industry which includes $18 billion for safety improvements at potentially hazardous dams, $15 billion to fund the removal of 2,000 dams, and $24 billion to support federal agencies, in part by helping them produce larger amounts of clean electricity at existing hydropower facilities.
It’s imperative that these additions to hydropower capacity are also paired with investments in healthier and more free-flowing rivers.
To learn more about CalTrout’s work with the removal of outdated dams, check out our webpage, Dams Out.