Nix The Dam
Public agency analysis reveals major flaws in the proposed Carmel River Dam.
Thursday, February 4, 1999
Proponents of a new Carmel River dam have tried for years to portray their anachronistic behemoth as a benefit to the river and the threatened steelhead trout.
Now, however, scientific review of the draft environmental documents points to the opposite conclusion. In its comments on the documents, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) frankly and objectively described the significant and adverse impacts such a project would have on the Carmel River, its species and habitat. It is clear the dam is even further from reality than ever.
The dangers to steelhead trout and the environment have been grossly underestimated in the draft documents (DSEIR) recently released by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. NMFS calls for the district to "realistically analyze the long-term impacts of the project through to its dismantling and rehabilitation." They also state that "many of the beneficial impacts are inflated and the less-than-significant impacts untested, while other adverse impacts are missing, not analyzed, or dubiously presented." NMFS'' conclusions were echoed by those of the Ventana Chapter''s commentators, and its consultant, Dr. John Williams, who submitted a lengthy scientific paper on the effects of the dam''s flows on the fisheries and environment.
The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) also just released its comments on the DSEIR. Among other problems, the documents were found inadequate because some key stream flow issues are not addressed, such as the required determination "whether instream flows will keep steelhead and other fish below the dam in good condition and provide adequate protection to other public trust resources." As with the Marine Fisheries comments, this is ironic, because the dam is being "sold" as a benefit to the fish and the river.
The Sierra Club detailed other underestimated impacts:
&bul; Growth: It is still clear a large quantity of dam water could go to growth, regardless of the new and improved "no-growth" name and Cal-Am''s friendly cartoon ads.
&bul; Traffic: The effects of construction traffic on Highway 1, Carmel Valley Road, Cachagua, Highway 68 and environs will be huge, and cannot be reduced to a manageable level by any of the proposed ill-defined and unrealistic "mitigation" measures. In addition, traffic growth impact figures were based on 10-year-old "level of service" data, and the unsupportable conclusion that Fort Ord''s build-out need not be included in the traffic/growth analysis.
&bul; Estimated costs, while already exorbitant, don''t even include the massive earth moving that would be needed to clear and reconstruct the river channel due to the dam''s impacts, nor other vaguely described mitigation measures. Also ignored are the construction costs for road widening and the "improvements" needed to jam huge trucks through narrow, winding Cachagua country roads, nor for rebuilding damaged roads after construction. Most critically, they do not include the costs of dam dismantling and "rehabilitation" which NMFS wants analyzed. Without these figures, we may not find out the full costs of the dam until our water bills come due.
This flawed Environmental Impact Report presents a lesson for those who might believe such documents simply report the truth. In fact, EIRs are not tablets written from on high. In many cases, they are just documents created by consultants paid for by project proponents, and which are by no means error-free.
Gillian Taylor is chair of the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club.