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Dam breached, reservoir drained – restoring the White Salmon River

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That’s an amazing video shot by photographer Andy Maser of the Condit Dam being breached by explosives last month. The 125-foot tall dam, built in 1913 on the White Salmon River in Washington State, emptied the contents of its reservoir in just over two hours.

For the first time in nearly one hundred years the White Salmon River will flow freely, restoring the river to be a natural habitat for local fish species. From the Seattle Times:

Located three miles from the river’s confluence with the Columbia, taking out the dam is expected to reopen about 33 miles of habitat for steelhead and about 14 miles for chinook, depending on how well different runs of fish contend with natural falls in the river.

It’s amazing just how much silt has accumulated over the past century, which reduced the generation capacity over time, and helped hasten the dam’s removal. The electric utility that owns the Condit Dam found it cheaper to demolish the dam than bring it up to modern environmental standards.

This video is yet another reminder that all forms of energy have tradeoffs – even relatively clean ones like hydroelectricity.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Nagnostic 10:48 pm 11/7/2011

    Yep. Another dam bites the dust. Let’s celebrate the continuing rollback of the only reliable Green power generation technology. It’s for the fishes! Let the rivers run free!
    One day, all those bird-chopping wind turbines will fall too.
    We all will then stand up, in our straw huts, and celebrate the fall of Industrialism, a scourge which has existed since humans tamed fire. Perhaps the wheel can be rolled out of existence as well.

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  2. 2. Nagnostic 10:53 pm 11/7/2011

    “The electric utility that owns the Condit Dam found it cheaper to demolish the dam than bring it up to modern environmental standards.”

    Yet another example of our misanthropist EPA killing human progress by pricing progress out of the market.

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  3. 3. Nagnostic 11:04 pm 11/7/2011

    We’re allowing our future to be extinguished by Earth-worshipping zealots.
    Oh well.
    Maybe if we all lived like rock-worshipping Australian aborigines the environmentalists would be satisfied.

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  4. 4. Nagnostic 11:06 pm 11/7/2011

    One good thing coming from the rollback of all human progress is the return of the human female to her proper place – the menstrual hut.

    Link to this
  5. 5. The Phoenix 9:07 pm 11/10/2011

    So shall we let a 100 year old dam break and kill a bunch of people? Hows that for progress?

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