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How dams destroy the ecosystem by blocking natural fish routes and spawning toxic algal blooms


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(NaturalNews) Their stated purpose, besides hydro-energy production, is to provide fresh water for cities and recreational spaces for people. However, man-made dams are inadvertently mucking up natural ecosystems throughout the U.S., including along the Klamath River in northern California and southern Oregon, where toxic algal blooms are reportedly harming wildlife and making water unsafe to drink.

A new report out of Oregon State University (OSU) reveals that toxic algal blooms are increasing in prevalence, duration, and intensity all along this unique water system, threatening to make an already difficult situation much worse. Published in the journal Harmful Algae, the report identifies a seasonal blue-green cyanobacterium known as Microcystis as a major culprit in this devastating phenomenon.

Hydroelectric dams block the otherwise constant flow of fresh water, creating stagnant bodies of non-circulating water that fosters the growth of algae, both toxic and non-toxic. During spring and summer when these bodies of water become warmer, the blooms can pop up suddenly and unexpectedly, making water unfit for consumption and potentially even unsafe for swimming.

Over time, these algal blooms bioaccumulate and migrate, traveling as far as 180 miles downriver in just a few days, say experts. When exposed to these blooms, humans and animals can develop serious health issues including liver damage, rashes and gastrointestinal illness. Moreover, they can be difficult to track, so one never knows when he might encounter a toxic algal bloom.

"It's clear that these harmful algal blooms can travel long distances on the river, delivering toxins to areas that are presently underappreciated, such as coastal margins," says Timothy Otten, a postdoctoral scholar at the OSU College of Science and College of Agricultural Sciences.

"And the blooms are dynamic, since they can move up and down in the water column and are physically distributed throughout the reservoir. This means you can't just measure water in one place and at one time and adequately estimate the public health risk."

The only solution to dam consequences is to remove existing ones and stop building new ones

Dams have gained considerable attention in recent years, including in documentary films like Damnation that explain in much further verbal and visual detail the immense environmental damage caused by these colossal technological feats. The unintended consequences of building dams are becoming increasingly apparent, the film explains, particularly with regards to the migration of wild salmon and the perpetuation of the food chain at large.

Toxic algae is just one negative consequence of dams among many, but it's a major one that cannot be ignored. Until the situation is fully remedied by removing the dams -- for the Klamath River, this is set to take place in 2020 and beyond -- individuals will have to learn how to deal with dammed bodies of water to avoid harming themselves.

"On a lake or river, if you see a green band along the shore or green scum on the surface, the water may not be safe to recreate in," adds Otten. "Because this problem is so diffuse, it's often not possible to put up posters or signs everywhere that there's a problem in real-time, so people need to learn what to watch for."

"Just as with poison ivy or oak, the general public needs to learn to recognize what these hazards look like, and how to avoid them in order to safeguard their own health," he says.

Hydroelectric dams are reminiscent of the many other so-called "green energy" programs like wind turbines, nuclear power plants, ethanol, and more that have since been exposed as fraudulent when it comes to their environmental friendliness.

The film Damnation offers in-depth insight into the issue of dams and how their removal in some areas of the country is already fixing major environmental damage that went unaddressed for years.

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