Dam Removal will Ruin Lives and have Catastrophic Consequences

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Dam Removal Would Be Cat­a­stroph­ic
Defend Rur­al Amer­i­ca
March 23, 2012

Stephen Koshy

Mr. Stephen Koshy is a hum­ble man, aged 77, who just hap­pens to love our coun­try and share our con­cerns over what is hap­pen­ing to it. He became aware of the plan to destroy four Kla­math Riv­er dams, due in part to the pub­lic­i­ty gen­er­at­ed by Defend Rur­al America’s launch in Yre­ka, Cal­i­for­nia on Octo­ber 22nd. Hav­ing over­seen the con­struc­tion of four earth dams in his native coun­try of India, Mr. Koshy became alarmed.

Gov­ern­ment Ignored His Warn­ings

On Novem­ber 18, 2011 Mr. Koshy wrote Thomas Hep­ler of the Bureau of Recla­ma­tion express­ing his con­cerns:

The ‘pro­posed action’ to remove the Iron Gate and J.C. Boy earth dams, is not safe or doable. … Any attempt to breach a dam, with its clay in such con­di­tion, will be dan­ger­ous. The dam will col­lapse cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly.”

The fatal error of cat­a­stroph­ic col­lapse, inval­i­dates all those Alter­na­tives that involve earth dam removal. …The sig­nif­i­cant impact of the earth dams’ cat­a­stroph­ic col­lapse, can not be avoid­ed or mit­i­gat­ed.

The future of Salmon will be adverse­ly impact­ed.”

Accord­ing to Mr. Koshy, it was this let­ter that caused Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary Ken Salazar to extend the pub­lic input peri­od on the EIS/EIR reports to the end of Decem­ber 2011. To insure his first warn­ing did not go unno­ticed, Mr. Koshy fol­lowed up with a sec­ond let­ter to Thomas Hep­ler on Decem­ber 21, 2011, this time request­ing his warn­ing be com­mu­ni­cat­ed to:

  • Cal­i­for­nia Gov­er­nor Jer­ry Brown
  • Ore­gon Gov­er­nor John Kitzhaber
  • Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary Ken Salazar
    — His Spe­cial Advi­sor to Chief of Staff
  • The Bureau of Reclamation’s:
    — Deputy Com­mis­sion­er Oper­a­tions
    — Direc­tors for Oper­a­tions, Tech­ni­cal Resources and Tech­ni­cal Ser­vices Cen­ter
    — Region­al Direc­tor
    — Engi­neer­ing and Geo-tech­ni­cal Serivces Divi­sions and Group leader

There was no sat­is­fac­to­ry response. Instead, the Inte­ri­or Depart­ment con­tin­ued onward toward what Dr. Paul Houser has called a pre-deter­mined out­come to destroy the dams. The plan was to be for­mal­ly adopt­ed by the end of March 2012.

Mr. Koshy Reach­es Out To The Peo­ple

On March 23, 2012 Stephen Koshy mailed his con­cerns to the Siskiy­ou Coun­ty Board of Super­vi­sors, hav­ing dis­cov­ered their names from con­tin­ued pub­lic­i­ty about the ongo­ing fight to save the dams. To his ear­li­er com­ments he added:

It is a cer­tain­ty [the pro­posed action will cause the dam’s cat­a­stroph­ic col­lapse]. It is not just a prob­a­bil­i­ty.”

Unex­pect­ed­ly, as the end of March neared, Sec­re­tary Ken Salazar unex­pect­ed­ly post­poned his deci­sion for an indef­i­nite peri­od, leav­ing the sit­u­a­tion unre­solved.

Cat­a­stroph­ic Con­se­quences Explained

Dur­ing my inter­view with him, Mr. Koshy detailed what he meant by a cat­a­stroph­ic col­lapse. Earth­en dams con­sist of four main parts:

  • A clay core to pre­vent water from seep­ing through the dam. When installed, the clay is rel­a­tive­ly dry and hard, but over the years water seeps into the clay at a pre­dictable rate and the clay becomes water-sat­u­rat­ed. This gives clay the prop­er­ties of a very vis­cous liq­uid, espe­cial­ly under high pres­sure.
  • A lin­ing around the clay core to pre­vent the clay par­ti­cles from migrat­ing.
  • Slop­ing sides made of dirt and grav­el to lock the clay core and lin­ing in place.
  • A cap at the top of the dam, above the clay, con­sist­ing of dirt, grav­el, con­crete, etc. This cap, say 20 feet thick for illus­tra­tion pur­pos­es, cov­ers the clay core and puts down­ward pres­sure on it.

This entire struc­ture works some­what like a tube of tooth­paste. The clay is like the tooth­paste, the lin­er the tube, the sloped sides like hands squeez­ing the tube, and the dam’s top like the cap. The forces are ter­rif­ic, but oppos­ing, so the clay stays put and the dam remains intact. Indeed, the dam is inspect­ed four times a year and has been deter­mined to be in excel­lent con­di­tion.

If the top of the dam were to be notched, how­ev­er, as pro­posed by Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or Ken Salazar, Mr. Koshy states the integri­ty of the dam would be com­pro­mised, result­ing in the dam’s ulti­mate col­lapse.

  • The removal of a por­tion of the dam’s cap, say 5 feet for illus­tra­tion pur­pos­es, is like unscrew­ing the cap on the tooth­paste tube. There is no longer suf­fi­cient down­ward force to con­tain the clay.
  • Part of the clay would squeeze upward, cre­at­ing a void.
  • The sides of the dam would col­lapse into this void.
  • The top of the dam would slump down­ward, per­haps by as much as one-third of the dam’s height, say 50 feet for illus­tra­tion pur­pos­es.
  • The water inlets and out­lets would be plugged. The reservoir’s water lev­el would rapid­ly rise. Low­er­ing the reservoir’s water lev­el pri­or to decon­struc­tion would only delay, but not stop, the con­se­quences.
  • The ris­ing water would seep through the dam. The clay, no longer held in place by the lin­er since its integri­ty would have been breached, would flow away.
  • Ulti­mate­ly, the ris­ing water would over­flow the top of the dam.
  • The veloc­i­ty of the water flow­ing over and through the dam would accel­er­ate as the dam erodes. The ero­sion would increase the vol­ume and veloc­i­ty of the escap­ing water, which would in turn erode the dam at an accel­er­at­ing rate.
  • The canyon walls would col­lapse. The earth’s crust in this vol­canic region con­sists of lay­ers of sed­i­ment sep­a­rat­ed by lay­ers of vol­canic ash, formed by mil­lions of years of vol­canic erup­tions and tilt­ed upward at an angle of 20 to 40 degrees due to vol­canic pres­sures. Exposed faces were cut into these lay­ers by the dam’s con­struc­tion. The struc­ture remains sol­id and sta­ble in the pres­ence of the dam, but becomes unsta­ble with­out the oppos­ing forces of the dam’s pres­ence. The prob­lems are com­pound­ed by fault lines in the region.
  • The uncon­strained reser­voir waters would rush down riv­er at veloc­i­ties as high as 10 times nor­mal, car­ry­ing with it rocks, boul­ders, and debris.
  • Homes and com­mu­ni­ties would be destroyed. Lives could be lost.
  • Salmon and oth­er fish would be destroyed. If the destruc­tion were to last for 3 years ― the repro­duc­tive cycle of salmon ― the salmon would be per­ma­nent­ly destroyed unless restocked by salmon from anoth­er area.
  • The high veloc­i­ties would con­tin­ue for a peri­od of per­haps 2–3 years.

Is Gov­ern­ment That Cor­rupt?

All of this had to have been known with­in gov­ern­ment. The U.S. Army Corps. of Engi­neers is the finest in the world.

  • Why was the dam removal pro­pos­al not stopped ear­ly in the process?
  • Fail­ing that, why were these issues not addressed in the Envi­ron­men­tal Impact State­ment and Report?
  • Have polit­i­cal agen­das so tak­en over our gov­ern­ment, that sci­ence and engi­neer­ing have both been cor­rupt­ed as indi­vid­u­als bow to the pres­sures cre­at­ed by those behind the scenes?
  • Go along and get mon­ey, grants, and pro­mo­tions? Speak out and get fired, like what hap­pened to Dr. Paul Houser?
  • Is our hard-earned mon­ey being used in a car­rot-and-stick to feed an agen­da that will ulti­mate­ly destroy our econ­o­my?

Will There Be Account­abil­i­ty?

There is a lot of explain­ing to do. But the fault does not lie with Thomas Hep­ler. The prob­lems go to the top.

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Source:  http://www.defendruralamerica.com/DRA/Blog/Entries/2012/3/23_Dam_Removal_Would_Be_Catastrophic.html

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