Sour Gripes


I’m told that in many areas dams are being decommissioned. A question I have is “for how many centuries has man dammed or in some ways diverted rivers or streams to turn water wheels or even irrigate crops?” With the existence of functioning dams all over the world how is it the city of London and who knows how many engineers were (are) unable to build a functioning dam? Could it be that it was over engineered and complicated for actual working conditions? As kids many of us even had limited success of damming road run off (at times an adult would see that we were not too successful). The science of raising and lowering water levels along Festival Drive in Stratford is testament that a higher water level indeed is a boon to tourism. The question appears to be how adverse a dam is to river health. Environmental studies seem to favour those commissioning it or over looking other issues that have affected water quality. How different is the Thames above and below our dam? :Different fish? Different turtles? Different plants? I guess I need to pay more attention. (Is that giant Hog Weed along the river out Thomas St.?)

I believe that a dam is the least of our environmental concerns with water quality and environment issues. I’ve said before in a quote “The grass don’t grow and the river don’t flow like it did in my childhood days”. The Thames and Trout Creek bear little resemblance to the water ways that we rafted and boated on and swam in. North of town the river has changed its flow in a few areas. I’ve mentioned before swimming below Trafalgar Bridge and older teens jumping from the bridge. Can you recall the last time (barring floods) when there was enough water there to swim? How long since you saw anyone swim there?

We cannot turn back the historic clock although we need to try our best to limit the damage or even reverse some of the damage we’ve done in the name of progress and the need to feed the world. We cannot rip out every tile line put in to drain land that would otherwise be non productive. Can you tell me that hasn’t affected water flow and levels? I’ve harped about the water quality at Wildwood in August when the “pea soup” spills down from upstream. I know that farmers and environmentalists are trying to improve liquid manure leaching and runoff: It is unfeasible to return to the old method of spreading more solids on the soil and working it in (although I do see the odd new/old style spreader.) Where is the line that defines, what is possible and what is not. We are unlikely with land prices that we will see crop lands return to forest.

I guess my main point is that we can make fish ladders or other adaptions to dams or tear them out but that is neither going to raise constant water levels or solve pollution problems.

REMINISCING: Although I’m out of season I was reminded of the cross Queen projectile wars with Gord Moses. Cousin Dave reminded me of throwing ripe tomatoes across the road at Gord while he pelted us back with chestnuts. We carried these battles to Ontario Street and found that if you threaded two or three chestnuts on a length of meat cord it was a far better projectile. Mahoney’s held the advantage of higher ground and had a chestnut tree closer. I’m not sure how we got through the summer but I know a large snowball fight led to strappings from Mrs. Fotheringham in grade 3. How would these occurrences go over today? We suffered no injuries and only the odd reprimand from parents. Isn’t it like all the outlawed play equipment we survived? How did we?

The mild days of approaching spring bring back the memories of planning to build a raft to paddle or pole above or below the dam. I believe I got more pure joy from quietly slowly moving along the river alone with nature than any other boating experience. On reflection I guess fishing the waters around (Douglas) Alwaki Lodge is as good as it gets.



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