Thomas Waters: Dams create discontinuity and destruction up and down stream

”When today a new dam is proposed, river advocates may first feel their rage against the loss of the river section that will be inundated.  A reach of a beloved river will be lost—a river no more.  But much more that the inundated reach is lost—upstream, downstream, laterally.  In the first place, the dam—a discontinuity—creates a break in a line, an obstacle not only to water, but also to plants and animals that evolved to benefit from the river’s original continuity.

Laterally, the destruction of a wide, spreading still water destroys immense riparian habitats.  Plan succession is changed in its rate and quality.  Terrestrial land migrations across or along the riverway may be blocked.  Human use of the valley—what’s left of it —  may increase greatly, resulting in overuse.  Downstream, the river is a new stream for a long way.  All aquatic plants are changed. Water temperatures may be lowed or elevated drastically, completely altering the thermal habitats of fish and invertebrates.  Endemic species may be extirpated to extinction…. The food supply to fish and invertebrates in the downstream reach is converted to a resource totally different.  Food available to fish then becomes dependent upon the output of zooplankton and sludge worms from the reservoir.  Rather than an undimmed community of mayflies and caddisflies.  Furthermore, all streambed organisms become subject to unpredictable flows for the dam.

When sediment is deposited in the reservoir, clear water is released through the dam.  In a river that used to carry a suspended sediment load, the clear water may be just as much a detriment to the stream as it may seem an improvement to our own eyes.  Ironically, clear water has a greater capability to erode, pick up, and carry off new sediment form the river bad and banks (and deposit it farther downstream!)It is called “hungry water”, and the result is an increased erosion of the river’s natural floodplain and riparian zones. 

Streambeds are eroded to lower elevations, dropping local water tables.  Even upstream, streambed erosion is increased due to upstream migration of the “head cut” (the point where the river flow “falls” into the reservoir) — destroying riffles, pools, and other streambed and bank covers.  Biodiversity — upstream, downstream, and alongside — is lost.  Quite apart for the drowned streams beneath still waters, dams are losers.”

Source:  Wildstream— A Natural History of the Free-Flowing River, Thomas F. Waters, 2000

CED’s error– mistake or pernicious perfidy?

On March 15th, reporter Ken De La Bastide of Anderson’s The Herald Bulletin noted that the Anderson Corporation for Economic Development had wrongly claimed on its pro-reservoir website that the Delaware Tribe is in support of its planned reservoir.  Here is the piece:


Mounds Lake support?

A check of the MoundsLake website showed a listing of business and professional support for the proposed reservoir in Anderson that would extend eastward into DelawareCounty.

Listed as supporters of the proposal were: The Anderson Madison County Visitors and Convention Bureau; the Anderson Madison County Association of Realtors; and the Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Those organizations should not be considered a surprise. Also listed is the Onward Alliance and the Delaware Tribe of Indiana.

The city of Anderson is named after Chief Anderson of the Delaware tribe, who located in the area in the late 1700s.

An email exchange shows the Tribe has never endorsed the project and was not aware of the history of it, said Gregory Brown, with the Tribe. He said they were asked to review the location for sensitivity for specific Delaware Tribe archaeological sites, which was misconstrued to imply support for the project.

Brown said the Tribe wants its name removed.

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide’s column publishes Sundays. Contact him at or (765) 640-4863.


It’s difficult to accept the reporter’s charitable characterization of the CED’s request later misconstrued as implied support for the project.  This incident of apparent pernicious perfidy by the Corporation for Economic Development reminds of a poignant excerpt from Frank Water’s 1993 book Brave are My People— Indian Heroes Not Forgotten:

“What have the conquering Anglos accomplished as custodians of the vast new, beautiful land they have gained?  How enchantingly diverse the landscapes of North America once were, with range upon range of snowcapped mountains, lush prairies, illimitable plains of shortgrass giving way to tawny, unbaked deserts and fetid jungles, all teaming with life in every form:  tiny plants and dense forests, birds, reptiles, and insects, and countless species of animals, including the buffalo whose great herds blackened the plains.  All of these, too, Indians believed were children of their common Mother Earth and so had equal rights to life.  They supplied the needs of men and women, but they were not sacrificed needlessly and wantonly.  And always the Indians ritually obtained their consent to their sacrifice.  So, too, was the land regarded as sacred and inviolate, being their Mother Earth.  With it and all other forms of life, the Indians knew themselves as part of one living whole. 

The Christian Anglo newcomers held a dramatically different view…Perhaps it came from the first chapter of Genesis in the Judeo-Christian Bible, in which man was divinely commanded to “subdue” the earth.   That was exactly what the white conquerors did as they proceeded westward.  They leveled whole forests under the axe, plowed under the grasslands, dammed and drained the rivers, gutted the mountains for gold and silver, and divided and sold the land itself. Accompanying all this destruction was the extermination of birds and beasts, not alone for profit or sport, but to indulge in a wanton lust for killing.

The result of this rapacious onslaught is all too evident now, at least to environmentalists and a mixed bag of worried scientists:  the destruction of the land itself, contamination of rivers, lakes and bounding oceans, pollution of the air to the extent that toxic alarms are frequently sounded in all large cities…. the entire nation and all its natural resources converted into ready cash!  Even Ripley would have a hard time believing it.

 …. We are now on the threshold of another cyclical change, a new era.  What it will bring, no one knows.  But we can obtain a glimpse into the future from the immeasurable past of the people who are the oldest inhabitants of America.  They have endured through the centuries because of their loving respect for the earth and their sense of unity with all that exists.  This may be a lesson the tormented and fragmented world can learn from them before it is too late:  to establish relationships and love with one another, and with all other forms of living nature.”

Brave Are My People— Indian Heroes Not Forgotten, Frank Waters, 1993

Conservationist Ethyle Bloch, Rest in Peace

On February 14th, Ethyle Blche passed away.  Here is a link to her obitiuary.  


She was a tremendous force for conservation in northeast Indiana.

We remember her courage and leadership with a poem

by Wendell Berry.


    The Gift of Gravity

All that passes descends,

and ascends again unseen

into the light: the river coming down from sky

to hills, from hills to sea,

and carving as it moves,

to rise invisible,

gathered to light, to return

again.  “the river’s injury

is its shape.”  I’ve learned no more.

We are what we are given

and what is taken away;

blessed be the name of the giver and taker

For everything that comes is a gift,

the meaning always carried out of sight

to renew our whereabouts,

always a starting place.

And every gift is perfect

in its beginning, for it

is “from above, and cometh down

from the father of Lights.”


Gravity is grace.

All that has come to us

has come as the river comes,

given in passing away.

And if our wickedness

destroys the watershed,

dissolves the beautiful field,

then I must grieve and learn

that I possess by loss

the earth I live upon

and stand in and am.  The dark

and then the light will have it.

I am newborn of pain

to love the new shaped shore

where young cottonwoods

take hold and thrive in the wound,

kingfishers already nesting

in a hole in the sheared bank.

“What is left is what is”–

have learned no more.  The shore

turns green under the songs

of the fires of the world’s end,

and what is there to do?


Imagine what exists

so that it may shine

in thought light and day light,

lifted up in the mind.

The dark returns to light

in the kingfisher’s blue and white

richly laid together.

He falls into flight

from the broken ground, with strident outcry gathers

air under its wings.

In work of love, the body

forgets its weight.  And once

again with love and singing

in mind, I come to what

must come to me, carried

as a dancer by a song.

The grace is gravity.

Wendell Berry



Raise a toast to water today

Today is World Water Day.  Per the Toast to Water idea (link below), simply raise a toast to water and send a pic.

This week has also been Fix a Leak Week sponsored by EPA’s Water Sense Program. 

This is noted in Citizens Water’s bill insert for this month which notes that nationwide, more than 1 trillion gallons of potable water leak from U.S. homes each year.  So check and fix those leaky toilets and drips.


Wendell Berry on the “operative law of officially-sanctioned exploitation”

“If there has been any law that has been consistently operative in American history, it is that the members of any established people or group or community sooner or later become “redskins”— that is, they become the designated victims of an utterly ruthless, officially-sanctioned and subsidized exploitation.  The colonists who drove off the Indians came to be intolerably exploited by their imperial governments. And that alien imperialism was thrown off only to be succeeded by a domestic version of the same thing; the class of independent small farmers who fought the war of independence has been exploited by, and recruited into, the industrial society until by now it is almost extinct.  Today, the most numerous heirs of the farmers of Lexington and Concord are the little groups scattered over the country whose names begin with “save”: Save our Land, Save the Valley, Save Our Mountains, Save Our Streams, Save Our Farmland. As so often before, these are designated victims – people without official sanction, often without official friends, who are struggling to preserve their places, their values, and their lives as they know them and prefer to live them against the agencies of their own government, which are using their own tax monies against them.”

 Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America, as published in The Art of the Commonplace, 2002