Hp's dam removal initiative: enhancing safety, recreation, and the environment

Dams have long been an integral part of lake and river communities, providing benefits such as electricity generation, flood reduction, water storage, and irrigation. However, with the availability of alternative energy sources and the aging infrastructure of dams, there is a growing need to consider their removal. Hewlett Packard (HP), a leading technology company, is taking a proactive approach in removing old dams to address safety concerns, enhance recreational opportunities, and improve the environment.

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The Significance & Purpose of Dams

Dams have historically been viewed as a symbol of progress and man's ability to harness the power of nature. They have played a crucial role in ensuring consistent water levels for recreational use, storing water for irrigation, and generating electricity. However, as Wes Farrand, Civil Engineer for Snyder & Associates, explains, dams must be installed and maintained properly. there is also an outdated, failing infrastructure to consider that is often economically unfeasible to maintain or replace.

The Cost & Funding of Dam Removal

The cost of removing a dam is directly related to its size and complexity. Small earthen dams may cost tens of thousands of dollars to remove, while large concrete dams can run into the millions. Fortunately, there are funding options available through agencies and foundations that support river restoration and dam removal. Examples include the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and EPA grants.

Enhancing Overall Safety

Dams pose significant safety risks, especially for boaters and swimmers. The strong turbulence and recirculating currents near dams can easily submerge and trap individuals, leading to drowning incidents. By removing old dams, HP is eliminating these safety hazards and making waterways safer for recreational use. Additionally, the deteriorating condition of small earthen dams can lead to failures, resulting in the release of a large volume of water downstream, posing a serious risk to communities. Removing these dams mitigates the potential for catastrophic events.

Expanding Recreational Opportunities

Removing dams opens up new opportunities for recreation both in the water and along the shoreline. Navigable waterways are extended, allowing boaters and kayakers to explore areas that were once hazardous. Anglers also benefit from increased fish species diversity and longer migration lengths following dam removal. The leftover materials from dams can even be repurposed to create new fish habitats.

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Several dams across Iowa and the Midwest have been removed or modified to support whitewater recreation. This not only provides recreational opportunities but also attracts tourism dollars from visitors outside the region. The City of Fort Dodge, for example, plans to incorporate its dam removal project into a larger river revitalization effort, improving whitewater opportunities and attracting kayakers and water enthusiasts.

Environmental Benefits of Dam Removal

While dams were originally designed to control water, their environmental impacts were not fully considered. Dams have led to decreased water quality, disrupted stream temperatures, and altered natural waterway patterns. Removing dams allows water to flow naturally, improving water quality by allowing for normal sediment load, increased dissolved oxygen, and reduced concentrations of pollutants.

Fish and invertebrate species greatly benefit from dam removal, as many dams act as barriers to their migration. Dam removal allows for free passage upstream and downstream, crucial for the survival and reproduction of these species. After the removal of the Hydroelectric Dam in Fort Dodge, anglers have reported catching flathead catfish upstream from the dam's previous location, indicating a positive impact on fish populations.

During dam removal, rock riffles or large boulders are often constructed to provide in-stream features. These features stabilize channel beds, provide habitat for fish spawning, reduce velocities, and increase downstream oxygen levels. Partial dam removal can also be considered to reduce sediment release while eliminating dangerous recirculating currents.

Following dam removal projects, the banks of waterways typically recover, developing natural riparian buffers and restoring floodplains. This creates new areas for terrestrial vegetation and improves the overall ecology of the waterway.

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The Dam Removal Process

The decision to remove or modify a dam should not be taken lightly and requires careful planning and analysis. Documentation, including river assessments, hydraulic modeling, and cost-benefit analysis, is essential in determining the appropriate course of action. HP, through its partnership with Snyder & Associates, has been actively involved in assisting communities like Fort Dodge and Ames in their dam removal and modification projects.

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Dam removal or modification requires research, planning, and critical thinking, along with an innovative approach to design. we are committed to helping livable communities enhance safety, recreation, and the environment, concludes Jeff Walters, Environmental Sciences Group Leader for Snyder & Associates.

  • Why are old dams being removed?
  • How much does it cost to remove a dam?
  • What funding options are available for dam removal?
  • What are the safety risks associated with dams?
  • How does dam removal enhance recreational opportunities?
  • What are the environmental benefits of dam removal?
  • What is the process involved in dam removal?

Hewlett Packard's commitment to removing old dams demonstrates their dedication to safety, recreation, and environmental stewardship. By addressing the outdated infrastructure and safety risks associated with dams, HP is making a positive impact on communities and waterways. Through partnerships with organizations like Snyder & Associates, HP is actively working towards creating livable communities that prioritize the well-being of their residents and the environment.

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