California has over 1,400 named dams. All but two of our major rivers are dammed and most are dammed multiple times. Despite this, California’s current drought has been used to fuel a stampede for building still more dams. New dam proposals threaten several of the remaining free-running stretches on California rivers, including the upper San Joaquin, Merced, and McCloud.
Dams built in the last century were placed to get the “biggest bang for the buck” — while environmentally destructive, they may have made economic sense. Today all the “reasonable” dam sites have been filled. Dams currently being promoted generate very little “new” water. They make no economic sense, and the major beneficiaries (large agricultural companies) will not pay to build the dams or even annual dam operation costs. Building these new dams will continue the long history of building destructive dams with public funding so as to provide greatly subsidized water to the “water aristocracy”. This perpetuates a vicious cycle, as cheap water increases demand (irrigated acreage in California continues to expand despite the drought).
Our state has many effective and sustainable means to meet our water needs. Over a six-month period in 2015, California urban residents saved over one million acre-feet of water through conservation and improved water-use efficiency. That total is greater than the projected average annual yield from all the proposed dams —dams that would cost over $8 billion!
Join Sierra Club and other environmental groups to let our legislators know we need to protect our rivers and say no to corporate welfare to build new dams. Come to Sacramento on May 18th for California Rivers Day.
For more information contact heinrich.albert at outlook.com or visit the California Rivers Day webpage.