Future of US Dams Infrastructure?
I've heard that the USA would like to become more energy independent and would like to develop cleaner energy.
I've also heard that there are thousands of electricity generating dams of all sizes in place which are being removed as fast as possible.
Can someone tell me what part of this equation I'm missing?
Why not use the huge and vast (literally) infrastructure of existing dams for the purpose for which they were intended? That is, make electricity with them.
Anything which is built requires maintenance, so that can't be the reason. (Altho I do often hear that being touted as the reason why many good things are torn down and replaced with bad things.)
I find it hard to believe that returning those thousands of rivers back to free-flowing would improve other things enough to offset the benefit of using the existing structures to create clean energy.
The dammed habitats are already changed. Have many/most of them already adapted to the new conditions? Maybe not. Maybe there is a large systemic badness that would be removed with the removal of the dams.
I've heard that trout fishermen want the dams removed. Is one type of fish a fair trade for clean energy? Other fish are thriving in the dammed condition. (Or maybe not?)
I note that in any resource for personal energy independence that wind, sun and water are the ways to achieve these goals. Individuals are encouraged to use any "head" energy they can legally develop and many personal-sized flow interference systems (quasi dams) and generators are sold. What's good for the single goose seems likely good for the social gander. Or not? Maybe it's like woodstoves. If many people switched to woodburning we might have another problem, right? (Such conditions occurred in the woodsy 70's. But I've also heard that woodburning practice has vastly improved. Still, that's only on the high-end. An oil-barrel burner and tin stack is still a common solution.)
Is the removal of dams part of a pie-in-sky hope for increased tourism? ...That can only be a factor in a few already-touristy places. Our local cowtown removed its dam a few years ago. It's no tourist locale before or after. And is tourism a valid basis for social activity? That doesn't sound independent AT ALL to me.
I suspect that our local community concluded that maintenance of its dam would cost more than any power gained. But when oil goes to $1000/barrel will that be the case? And will it always be true that a society can't afford to hire its people to do honestly useful tasks? More just social conditions might one day prevail.