The Removal Of A Dam And A Tragedy

Gold Ray Dam had been a fixture for about one hundred years.  But, under pressure from the Oregon Fish and Game Commission, a decision was made to remove it.  The reason being that it provided a major obstacle for salmon swimming upstream and impeded their growth.  The dam itself was not really doing anything.  Above it, a slough had formed, creating a water sanctuary for hundreds of riparian creatures.  These life forms had thrived for over a century, but disaster was about to overtake them…

A long battle for the removal of Savage Rapids Dam ended several years ago when it was finally taken out.  The people involved in the job were cautious as to how much water they would let out at any given time and no major incidents occurred.  Above it, a placid lake had formed, but there was nothing like the teeming slough in back of Gold Ray.  The river at first created a mean rapid, then settled into a more mild Class 2 with just a few rocks to dodge.  The river cut a wide swathe where there had once been a more narrow and treacherous drop.  It reminded folks of the effects of the 1964 flood, which did precisely the same thing.

When the removal of the Gold Ray Dam went from paper to action, the dam removers felt a surge of confidence based on the successful removal of Savage Rapids.  But, alas! Hubris and carelessness overtook them.  Instead of moving cautiously with measured steps of removal(as had been the case with Savage Rapids), they took large chunks out of the dam, while underestimating the power of the river in back of it.  The result was an ecological catastrophe.  Suddenly, the river burst through with a violent roar and moved away from the habitat that had depended on it for sustenance.  Thousands and thousands of water creatures perished.  Photos published showed fishes faces in shock.  These pictures brought a truly affecting quality to creatures that were caught and eaten at will.  And, irony of ironies, the removal of Gold Ray, which was intended to preserve the salmon and other species,  ultimately contributed towards their destruction.

It must be said that many people from the Fish and Game tried to save as many species as they could.  But their efforts caused only a mild dent in the tragedy that had occurred.  Let us hope that in the future, dam removers will show the same consideration for habitat as dam builders.

A video showing Class 2 Gold Ray Rapid today:

About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

3 Responses to The Removal Of A Dam And A Tragedy

  1. What a tragedy! I will never understand how this lack of concern for other species continues in this day and age when we know better. I also hope for a better future, but I don’t now if that hope is well-placed. There isn’t much evidence of things changing for the better. Interesting information here, Robert. Thank you.

  2. Glad you found it useful, Debra.

  3. berlioz1935 says:

    Human intervention, usually leads to unintended consequences. Building the dam was the first intervention and it resulted into a new environment. As you pointed out the removal of the barrier turned into a disaster. Be that a warning for all of us.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: