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The Downside of Dams: Is the Environmental Price of Hydroelectric Power Too High?
dams, rivers
Photo: iStockPhoto/ThinkStock
Author: Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss
Date: September 18, 2012

Dear EarthTalk: How is it that dams actually hurt rivers?—Missy Davenport, Boulder, Colo.

Dams are a symbol of human ingenuity and engineering prowess—controlling the flow of a wild rushing river is no small feat. But in this day and age of environmental awareness, more and more people are questioning whether generating a little hydroelectric power is worth destroying riparian ecosystems from their headwaters in the mountains to their mouths at the ocean and beyond.

According to the non-profit American Rivers, over 1,000 dams across the U.S. have been removed to date. And the biggest dam removal project in history in now well underway in Olympic National Park in Washington State where two century-old dams along the Elwha River…

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