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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.


What’s Our Dam Problem?

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: dams, rivers, wilderness, wildlife, international, conservation, environment, World Rivers Review, Keith Goetzman,

Lower Elwha dam

We’ve learned, time and time again, that damming rivers causes all sorts of problems for both nature and society—and yet we keep building dams all over the world. World Rivers Review, the quarterly magazine of the advocacy group International Rivers, reports on the state of the world’s free-flowing rivers—those that remain, that is:

Writer Parineeta Dandekar singles out for praise Canada’s Heritage Rivers System, Australia’s Wild Rivers Act, Sweden’s National Rivers program, and the United States’ Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, suggesting that river advocates in other nations emulate these examples to keep their remaining rivers undammed and undeveloped:

Here in the United States, we’ve learned a few lessons the hard way—our favorite method, it seems—and have been dismantling some particularly destructive dams in recent years. In fact, the largest dam removal in U.S. history has begun on the Elwha River in Washington state. High Country News reports on the Elwha restoration in its brand-new issue, and the Los Angeles Times offers a cool interactive visualization of the deliberately slow process of taking down the Glines Canyon dam.

Sources: World Rivers Review, High Country News (story available only to subscribers), Los Angeles Times 

Image by brewbooks, licensed under Creative Commons.