Alternatives to Building More Dams

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I was intimidated. Actually, let me be honest, I feared a thrashing at the hands of the River God. Trembling muscles warned me to just shoulder my boat and walk. I couldn't. I traveled all the way from Pennsylvania to run these rivers, how could I back out now? I had to run Sunshine Falls...the largest rapid on the Royal Gorge section of the Arkansas River. When would I make it back to Colorado to run this river? I considered the the portage again; it's an impressive drop with no shame in walking. But what if they dam the Arkansas?

I had the pleasure of kayaking about fifteen miles of the Arkansas river, in Colorado, this summer. Flowing from its headwaters near Buena Vista, the Arkansas is a virgin river. Only a trickle
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As dams retain about two- thirds of our consumed water (Conservation Fund, 1984), irrigate farm lands worth in excess of 9 billion dollars, are visited by almost a billion people a year for recreation (Bureau of Reclamation, 1991), and provide about a tenth of our countries electrical power t Statistical Abstract, 1991), it is impossible tG ignore the potential of hydro dams. As dams continue to be built, and problems still arise with the environment and release schedules, what will we do then?

Now imagine that we can get all the benefits of a hydropower dam, with fewer or no harms. Imagine the cheap, on demand power which only hydropower can provide without the threat of a thermonuclear meltdown. Think of not haggling over the optimum manner in which to handle release schedules. Picture running that stretch of river without a dam in your way. Envision a future where American Rivers will no longer have to fight industry and the government over hydropower dams. That is now more reality than you might expect. Our platform, as supporters of American Rivers, according to President W. Kent Olson (1989) has been to, "kill bad hydro proposals," and, "limit acceptable hydro development to places where it will cause the least ecological and aesthetic damage." For American Rivers, however, a this outdated approach needs to be replaced.

It should not be our job to determine, like utility companies, on which sites a dam causes the
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