George Smith: Dams are not ‘clean energy’

Morning Sentinel

If you believe Hydro-Quebec’s dams will send clean energy through Maine to Massachusetts, you must read the book “Blue Deserts” by Stephen Kasprzak. When you do, you’ll know just how destructive these dams are.

I’ve seen some of those dams, during fishing trips in Quebec, and I know they’re bad for our climate and the health of people who live near them. But I had no idea, until I read this book, how terribly destructive these dams are, and not just in Quebec.

I was astonished to learn that Hydro-Quebec’s dams caused Maine’s coastal waters to warm, resulting in the loss of a bunch of fish species. As an avid angler, I am very concerned about the terribly destructive impacts these dams have on our fisheries. And the dams are a key factor in the melting of Arctic sea ice. You probably know that has had a severe impact on polar bears and our climate.

And while we blamed the depletion of cod in Maine’s coastal waters on overfishing, the bigger problem was ocean warming caused by Hydro-Quebec’s dams.

A lot of the information in the book came from Dr. Hans Neu, an esteemed Senior Research Scientist at the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the 1970s. But the province of Quebec, which owns Hydro-Quebec, stifled a lot of Dr. Neu’s information, refusing to let him publish it. Well, it’s all in this book, along with lots more from Kasprzak.

The book reports on the profound ecological damage done by dams in Canada and the subarctic and arctic regions in Russia. A lot of the information is very technical, but you’ll understand all the terrible impacts of these dams.

In fact, one of Kasprzak’s examples of the destructive nature of dams is about Maine’s Sebago Lake, where he and his wife own a small camp. When S.D. Warren began hoarding water behind their dam from May through November, to maximize electrical generation since CMP increased monthly rates from December through March, it caused a lot of problems on the lake.

And here’s something that is typical of all the info in this book: “The spring freshet was the lifeblood of coastal ecosystems and the discharge of its torrents into coastal waters would create temperature and density gradients, known as haline currents, which would pump nutrient enriched deep sea water through deep channels up into coastal waters and estuaries.” Just one more thing stopped by these dams.

And this is a worldwide problem. Over the past 50 years, 50,000 dams have been built around the world, profoundly altering the fresh water inflow to the world’s estuaries and coastal seas.

As Kasprzak reports, “The world is at a tipping point if we do not take action now to force the industry to drain these reservoirs and restore regional natural hydrologic cycles. The window for this opportunity to cool the climate may close very quickly if too much heat-trapping methane gas is released from the Arctic’s now rapidly thawing permafrost.”

Sadly, as Kasprzak reports, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection “approved the CMP project without considering those dam’s environmental impact on the Gulf of Maine and its fisheries or the warming of the regional climate.”

Without question, these destructive dams could never have been built in Maine, because they would have violated our clean waters and natural resources acts. So why did our state agencies approve this project?

Kasprzak also notes that, “Maine’s politicians, bureaucrats and the media have all but ignored how these dams flood the land and kill the deciduous forests, the taiga and the tundra of the terrestrial ecosystem, which now lay at the bottom of these man-made reservoirs. That is why, I too refer to them as Blue Deserts!”

There is a much better way to generate electricity and address climate change: solar power. Here in Maine, three major solar power projects are underway, generating enough electricity to power 78,000 homes, at prices no higher than we’re paying now. And dozens of other solar projects are being planned in Maine, partly thanks to the enthusiastic support of our governor. Perhaps Massachusetts should forget about Hydro-Quebec’s dirty power, and go with solar.

If you oppose CMP’s destructive corridor through western Maine, thank you. If you support the corridor, please read Steve’s book. CMP and Hydro-Quebec know their ads for the “clean energy corridor” are not true. Shame on them.

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  • Robert Rowe
    commented 2020-08-23 13:04:08 -0400
    Great article, very informative, the question of why did the Maine Environmental Depart support the corridor is a good one and needs an answer. This project as proposed is demonstrating that big money is still moving the world towards long term disaster, for short term gain.