Dammed If You Do, Dammed If You Don't

As more dam removal projects achieve notoriety in the U.S., it is worth reminding ourselves that without dams, some of the top trout spots in the country would still be lukewarm sloughs where irrigation dewatering made it impossible for fish of any species to survive. Think of Montana’s Bighorn or Beaverhead rivers. Or, as Ed Stoddard notes in Scientific American, of Oklahoma’s Lower Mountain Fork. In some places, dams provide technical fly fishing and the enchantment of complex ecosystems that goes along with it, no doubt involving people who would otherwise never be bothered. But as some point out, there are almost always downsides to damming a river, beyond those that are so obvious when talking about anadromous species like steelhead and Atlantic salmon. “‘I personally spend a lot more time trying to remove dams than thinking about their benefits,’ said Oregon-based Jack Williams, the senior scientist with conservation organization Trout Unlimited.”

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