Two days ago the largest dam of its kind in the United States was removed. I joined 300 cheering conservationists as we all watched the Condit Dam breeching on close-circuit television and 100 years of salmon blockage instantly vanishing.
Eighteen years ago, my family attended the first Condit Dam removal public hearing in a town aptly called White Salmon. My daughter narrated a skit where small children carrying salmon drawings “swam” around on stage. On cue, the first salmon attempted to break through the paper dam, but couldn’t break through (providing a bit of humor). Eventually, the kids tore through the dam, but it would take almost two decades for the real dam to come down.
We start building walls early in life erecting forts, Lego buildings, tree houses. We built the Berlin Wall, the keep-out-the-immigrant walls in the American Southwest, and thousands of miles of fences channel livestock and can prevent wildlife from migrating.
Now some walls are coming down. Four salmon blocking dams have been removed in the Pacific Northwest within the past two years, and more are planned. These dams are being removed not necessarily because they are being required by regulating agencies, but rather due to economics. The utility owners have crunched the numbers and found it less expensive to remove their dam instead of placing by-pass fish ladders.
It was the height of being a good neighbor when our friends next door showed up one day with wire cutters and demolished a barb-wire fence separating our properties.