LETTER- Cry me a river

Thanks to Lisa Provence for raising the matter of the proposed destruction of the Woolen Mills dam [News, "Dam demo: Breach at Woolen mills good for shad," March 23]. What I wanted to say was that the breadth of the river provides protection for the nesting sites of mallards, wood ducks, Canada (not Canadian) geese, and that there is more nesting activity along this area than on any other section of river.

The Rivanna Conservation Society report estimates 5,000 yards of silt lie behind the dam. This, combined with a significant rain event– of which we've had quite a few over the last 10 years– could be tantamount to dumping 1,000 truckloads of toxic silt downriver, devastating existing ecology and leaving the river shallow and impassable by boat.

Such was the case on the Embry Dam break on the Rappahannock where eight out of nine mussel species disappeared and the water became so shallow that tour boats were cancelled. The Society anticipate no adverse effects from the local breach, but can they be sure? Are they willing to take the blame for ecological disaster?

The dam is currently beneficial to the ecology downstream by acting as a holding pond for silt and pollutants. The action of the falling water also adds much-needed oxygen to the water. The health of the river downstream is visibly better and shows many more aquatic plants and significantly less algae than upstream.

It surprises me that Society members who live in Palmyra are willing to take a chance on the health of their section of river that could become compromised for many years into the future.

I don't expect that my small voice will have the least effect on the juggernaut that is the Conservation Society, whose momentum and claim to superior ecological foresight seem to go unchallenged. However, it is deeply troubling that with just a cursory study they are poised to execute such a possibly disastrous quantum change upon the river's delicate ecology.

And for what reason? To attempt to return a once-native fish to an environment that may no longer exist as it did in Jefferson's day. Wouldn't the group do better to start a dedicated river monitoring program that could supply the knowledge we desperately need to manage our resource in the best possible way?

Daniel Sebring