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Know the West

Risky dam business

  I was pleased to see an article highlighting some of the great river restoration successes on Fossil Creek (HCN, 10/01/07). It is unfortunate, however, that the article also seems intent on creating a dam-removal controversy where one does not exist. River restoration practitioners - and the conservation groups that we often work with - are under no illusions that dam removal is a "panacea," and we are well aware that the business of river restoration is, like nature itself, full of complexity and uncertainty.

Dam removal is like major surgery: There are always risks and potential complications associated with the procedure, but there are ways of minimizing those risks, and we press forward when we are confident that surgery will improve the patient's overall health. So far, the track record for dam removal is excellent, and our ability to avoid potential risks improves with experience. Dealing with uncertainty, complexity, and even risk isn't a "downside." It's a necessary part of doing the job right. This is why river restoration practitioners and conservation groups alike are vocal advocates for more scientific research at dam removal sites.

Jim MacBroom, P.E.
Vice President,
Milone and MacBroom, Inc.
Cheshire, Connecticut