1-2-2009: This is in response to a recent letter to the editor from a DNR Hydrologist:
An Engineers Code of Ethics states that Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. This code also states that if engineers' judgment is overruled under circumstances that endanger life or property, they shall notify authority as appropriate.” In other words, engineers should do no harm, and should deter actions that may harm people or property.
The DNR is preventing an inexpensive maintenance level project from being performed, and even prohibits the City from undertaking very basic inexpensive interim measures to protect the integrity of the dam’s foundation. There is a good chance significant floods will undermine the dam in its current condition, which would suit the DNR’s goal of destroying the dam.
The DNR also noted they will not approve bank protection efforts without a demonstrated need. The presence of a low head dam has helped protect the riverbanks in town, and for many decades there has been no need of major bank protection. Without a dam, a faster flowing river with more aggressive hydraulic action would meander and cut riverbanks – potentially destroying people’s homes, and utility lines that service the entire Rolling Green area. The DNR would impose severe costs and risks on homeowners and public utilities instead of proactively protecting them. Importantly, the party forcing the drastic change in a status-quo situation has typically been held to be responsible to remedy the problems they create. Most engineers would likely think the DNR approach as being quite unethical. It also goes against their own legal rules. The DNR dam safety engineer expressed concerns about their approach as well. Internal DNR communications refers to their dam removal method as “rip and run”.
The DNR took photos of the “riverbank” failing in 2005 and 2006 and apparently said nothing. This is not good engineering practice either.
The DNR’s fish passage and drowning machine arguments can be easily addressed with a riprap retrofit. Selective dredging should also be considered; discussions with County staff indicate best management practices in farming have been beneficial.
Finally: it is not the “DNR’s money”, it is the people’s money. The legislature passed a funding bill with the clear intent that the city was to make the dam decision. The DNR would be well advised to remember that, and a poll done by an engineering firm which shows that a clear majority of the people would want a reservoir & dam to remain.