Questions the Need for Dam Project
When I read the “Crowd Protests Dam Project” article (Dec. 19), I was struck by a sense of déjà vu. This past summer, I attended a Santa Monica Mountains Watershed Committee (SMMWC) meeting during which another large dam project (Rindge Dam) was discussed. The proposed project would involve state parks, the Army Corps of Engineers as the main contractors, and an estimated cost of $130 million. Like Devil’s Gate, the Rindge Dam project involves massive sediment removal, calling for countless truck trips to remove millions of cubic yards of soil.
There is no imminent threat from either dam. Nor would removing them significantly improve environmental or geologic conditions. While I am an avid safety advocate and environmentalist, I object strongly to slapping a faux safety or environmental label on something to make it sell well with the public. If either the Devil’s Gate or Rindge Dam projects were truly safety or environmental endeavors, I’d be the first one to get out there and promote them. But sadly, these projects both strike me, a professional woman with a graduate degree in Public Finance & Policy, as opportunistic plays for government grant funding. In other words, there’s a boatload of essentially earmarked “dam removal” money sitting in government coffers and some graspy public bodies are going to find a pretext to use it.
Many of the Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works projects have been called out as egregious examples of patronage and/or as a waste of money and resources. Many projects have allegedly been justified based on flawed or manipulated analyses. Some projects have even created profound detrimental environmental effects and/or provided questionable economic benefit, such as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet in southeast Louisiana. Reforming the Corps’ way of doing business has been championed by Senators Russ Feingold and John McCain.
At the very least, we constituents can educate ourselves as to what drives the Corps, and similarly funded public bodies, to make some pretty flimsy cases for some awfully expensive, unnecessary projects. It’s all about incentives and accountability.