Letter: Mill Street dam poses threat to wildlife
To the editor:
The Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) supports the removal of the Mill Street (Tel Electric) dam from the west branch of the Housatonic River. BEAT's mission is to protect the environment for wildlife. One of the major threats to wildlife is habitat loss and habitat fragmentation — meaning wildlife can't move from one suitable piece of habitat to another because we humans have created some sort of barrier in between. All this is made much worse by the climate crisis. But that does not mean we should stop removing those barriers to wildlife movement or add more just because they might help mitigate the climate crisis.
BEAT has long advocated for a study of all the dams in Berkshire County to determine which should or should not be removed. If we are going to add hydroelectric electricity generation at a dam, it should only be at a dam that will never be removed, such as the dams creating Onota and Pontoosuc lakes, or on a dam where removal would not provide an environmental and wildlife habitat benefit.
In general, barricading our streams and rivers has an extremely detrimental effect on wildlife and ecosystems. For an example of how big an effect this can be please read the article by Anne Post titled "Why Fish Need Trees and Trees Need Fish" on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website. We have many more ecologically friendly ways to generate electricity including hydroelectric generation that does not dam our free-flowing rivers.
A favorite example of hydroelectric generation that has little if any environmental impact is right here in Pittsfield. Did you know that your drinking water generates electricity? We have a hydroelectric turbine in our flow station where the water from the reservoirs come into Pittsfield to be distributed. Basically a turbine in an existing pipe.
We agree with letter writer Ken Egnaczak ("Misleading video on Mill Street dam,") May 10 that we must stop using fossil fuels as quickly as possible, but that does not mean we should do this at the expense of wildlife. We humans are already causing a sixth extinction with wildlife numbers plummeting. We have so many existing technologies that we should be deploying much faster in appropriate locations. Before we consider destroying more wildlife habitat, we should make sure we have all available energy efficiency installed, our off-shore wind fully deployed, solar on every appropriate roof top and over every appropriate parking lot, and battery storage - preferably non-toxic flow batteries - at every electric substation.
BEAT strongly supports the removal of the Mill Street Dam and restoration of the west branch of the Housatonic River throughout the west side of Pittsfield.
The writer is executive director, Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)
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