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In the last few years, I’ve written periodically about the impact of hydrologic dams on rivers and ecosystems. Most recently I put together a piece for Oregon’s Agricultural Progress magazine about the removal of small dams on Calapooia River in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. An excerpt from the piece is below, to view the whole article, visit: The Long Memory of Small Dams.

The Brownsville Dam was soon joined by two more dams—Sodom and Shearer—built to divert water to a local grain mill. The dams became part of the region’s landscape where they helped develop commerce and community.

However, as the reality of a competitive world market set in, the mills eventually closed. The dams became maintenance liabilities, as well as barriers to fish passage and factors in the ongoing degradation of the river channel. The impact of the dams on water flow was so severe and the diversions so effective that the main channel of the Calapooia River was at risk of running dry. Something needed to be done.

Although the details of these three dams were specific to the Calapooia, the general problem of aging and failing dams was becoming a much larger issue. Across the United States, more than 2.5 million dams obstruct waterways. They range from small structures a few feet tall designed primarily for irrigation to 600-foot structures capable of powering cities. …

I lived for a brief time in Washington D.C.

I tried the city on like a suit of clothes and found it didn’t fit. It chafed in awkward places, left me feeling too exposed, and also too covered. For the most part it itched and didn’t breathe. But there were moments when it wore like old jeans, offering comfort like the college hoodie that’s splattered with blue and yellow from the time you painted the kitchen the colors of a Mexican village.

Those times most often happened while dancing in the kitchen with a roommate who became a friend — a woman to hold on to during the ups and downs. To rejoice with and to share tears. This music makes me think of her.

Here’s to friends. And to banishing the bad days by dancing like no one is watching.

Off the beaten path, Wallowa County, Oregon

Yesterday, my work plans were cancelled and I ended up with most of a day to kill. The weather was threatening a spring blizzard, low 40s and dropping with winds gusting at about 20-25mph. The Eagle Cap was already turning white under new snow. The only reasonable thing to do – go fishing. The north east corner of the state is filthy with trout streams, and though it was a holiday weekend, it seemed like getting out on the river could still be awesome. It was!

Unfortunately, today, in a sad turn of events on a different river, I broke my first-ever fly rod, then realized I had a massive leak in the wheel cylinder of back rear brake on the truck. With it being Sunday and Memorial Day tomorrow, there aren’t any auto part stores or mechanics available until Tuesday. No transportation, no fly rod, but plenty of fish. I guess it’s time to lace up running shoes, then do some work.

An unnamed rural highway, Union County, Oregon

Last night lying cocooned in down, I fell asleep to the sounds of rain drumming across the fiberglass truck topper and gunshots. The rain quit a few hours later, but the shots rang through the night. Some times they sounded deep like the huge drum carried by the skinny kid in high school marching band, or like the cannon fire from a war long lost. Other times they were more like a POP! A tire blowing out at 60 miles an hour on the highway, a firecracker pulled as the sky darkens on the Fourth of July. They came in intervals; ringing one or two every few hours. At 11pm, midnight, 1:30, 1:46, 3 am. Then just before dawn, before the water had boiled for coffee, I heard the howls. Bouncing and echoing along forested hills and across valley pasture, they were less a chorus than a distortion of individual notes. Once again came gun fire.

These are not redneck kids playing with dangerous toys, not devil dogs running feral. Far from the state capitol, far from the lawmakers, the activists and lobbyists, the long nights have everyone tired, and all sides are suffering losses. They are hardworking men and women trying to maintain their livelihood. They are wild animals acting from instinct and experience.

ImageIt’s spring! Here come new adventures, new friends, and new places. Let’s go play outside!


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