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Forum, Oct. 8: Dam owners should pay the costs of removal

Published: 10/7/2021 10:00:06 PM
Modified: 10/7/2021 10:00:11 PM
Dam owners should pay the costs of removal

In the Sept. 18 issue we read about the removal of the abandoned Hyde Dam on the Second Branch of the White River and all the good things expected to follow from it (“Dams coming down”). All Vermonters can take some satisfaction in this project, for it is being overseen by the state and being accomplished for the modest sum of $150,000 in donations received from public and private sources.

This is indeed a good news story. There is, however, a not-so-comforting backstory.

Why must public and charitable funds be raised to effect the removal of a dam? Because owners feel free to walk away from dams when they no longer have a use for them, go bankrupt or die. Subsequent owners will disclaim any responsibility while, over time, dams become public nuisances.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources says it has limited enforcement powers over abandoned or dangerous dams and can only make recommendations.

I find this amazing. The sovereign state has had an interest in rivers and streambeds since the days of the Roman Empire. And a dam is not fee simple real estate like some old barn. It is a license coupled with an interest. It is a license to impede the flow of a water course.

Whether obtained or not, permission has always been required for a dam. And when the use of a dam is abandoned, that license expires and the dam should be removed at the expense of the owner.

Some may say that a dam never outlives its use. This is laughably absurd, as has been seen in this case. Consider also the Glen Canyon Dam, on a muddy river about to run dry.

But the relicensing application for the Wilder, Bellows Falls and Turners Falls dams now before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission contains no provisions to cover the costs associated with decommissioning — as if that will never need to happen. No bond. No sinking fund.

In this day and age, that is simply incredible.



Terrifying retirement for hens

I was reading the Perspectives section of the Oct. 3 Sunday Valley News and saw the opinion column by Suzanne Lupien (“The best chicken pie ever: A menu for your laying hen’s retirement party”). As I read it, I had a growing feeling of terror.

The column praised the old laying hens — “so many delicious eggs” — only to then describe whacking off their heads and hanging them up by their feet. They are of no use anymore when they quit laying eggs. Only in a pie.

“Make sure your heart is calm and your hatchet or cleaver is sharp and heavy.” What a terrible way to be retired! The column goes on to say, “One clear-intentioned and accurate blow should suffice.” I think what bothered me about this piece is its gleeful tone.

P.S.: I don’t eat animals.



A few car-related questions

I have some questions. Is it true that the New Hampshire Department of Transportation says that automobiles do not have to be inspected for a year? Do insurance companies have to cover uninspected vehicles? How many speeding tickets have been given by Canaan and Enfield police on Route 4 near the school in the last six months or year? How come the speed limit sign is after the turn to the school and not before?



We shouldn’t live lives in fear

The Associated Press article “Surge hits region despite vax rates” (Oct. 4) made me wonder what the actual numbers are on the surge. The fairly long article mentions few solid comparison numbers. It is these types of articles that are driving fear into public perception.

A lot of these articles, driven by medical professionals, don’t take into account the other side of the COVID-19 coin, which is mental health for everybody. Of course they want you to social distance, wear a mask, etc. And one can’t argue that these measures will lead to fewer cases of COVID-19, colds, the flu, etc. But to what end? Should we live our lives inside our house for the rest of our lives, never going out in public? If we did, we could save many lives. There would never be any car accidents, plane crashes, drunken driving, etc. So why don’t we?

It was refreshing to read syndicated columnist Megan McArdle’s Oct. 5 opinion piece (“We need to rethink our COVID-19 precautions”), as we do need to stop the perpetual state of emergency. This running and hiding is not a long-term, sustainable template.

Suicide rates are up in this nation, and it is not fair to ask young people to go through this suffering. We all know about the unfortunate suicides of the Dartmouth College students last year. In my opinion, the recent mask mandates in Hanover and Lebanon were put in place by people who don’t see the other side of the coin and without any consideration for the mental health of the youth of our country. They need to think about the long-term damage this is causing and not enact knee-jerk reaction measures.

Some say, oh, just wear a mask, it’s so easy. And to them I say, it’s even easier to not put one on in the first place.



Booster restores my freedom

I just got my COVID-19 booster shot. I was eligible because of my age and because I was fortunate to receive my first two doses of the Pfizer vaccine a little over six months ago.

Now, I don’t for a minute think that I am immune to the virus. But I do feel comfortable shopping in a grocery store, going out to see a movie or eating in a restaurant. I feel comfortable getting on a plane and, most of all, doing my work, which involves being with singers and actors in a rehearsal room, something that was impossible for 18 months. Now that, to me, is freedom.



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