LETTER- Shad need their freedom

I was disappointed to read Downing L. Smith's April 13 letter, "Save the dam for recreation." I will attempt to set his mind at ease about the removal of the Woolen Mills Dam.

First, the dam will not be completely removed. Only a portion of the center section will go in order to allow many types of fish to migrate up stream to spawn.

Smith complains that an "outstanding yet underused recreational asset" will be destroyed. One has only to visit the former site of the Embrey Power dam in Fredericksburg to see how that area has been improved. Fishing, canoeing, and kayaking have all been enhanced by the restored Rappahannock River.

Smith asks, "Why destroy a habitat that has existed for 150 years to replace it with something unknown?" There's a very good answer to that question, one that scientists and experts agree on. Dams change the ecology of a river to the detriment of aquatic life.

Thomas Jefferson's father, like many colonials, fished for shad on the Rivanna River every spring. Nowadays, the American Shad is in danger of becoming extinct.

Legend has it that when George Washington's Continental Army was encamped along the Schuylkill river at Valley Forge in the long winter of 1777-78 and were starving, an early spring run of shad up the river saved them.

In 2000, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Colombia penned an agreement– endorsed by governmental and environmental groups– to help improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. The scientists and experts employed by these organizations have a wealth of knowledge that exceeds that of letter writers Dan Sebring or Downing Smith on river habitat and ecological matters.

Harry W. Helmen III