Dam good news on environmental flows

westernriverlaw

Given its track record of dam construction in the 20th Century, the Army Corps of Engineers may seem an unlikely source of good news for rivers.  The Corps ultimately built nearly 700 dams across the nation, including some major ones in the West.  (The chapter in Cadillac Desert describing the Corps’ competition with the Bureau of Reclamation to build dams in the western states is titled “Rivals in Crime.”)  Although flood control is the main purpose of Corps dams generally, they also generate hydropower, support navigation, and provide flatwater recreation, among other things.  There is also growing interest in Corps reservoirs (not only in the West) as potential sources of water supply.

Dams can harm rivers in many ways, so it is not surprising that the Corps has a reputation for riparian destruction.  Starting in the 1980s, however, Congress began giving the Corps authority and direction for environmental restoration efforts; today, the Corps clearly…

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