To Dam or Not To Dam Purpose Students will evaluate the potential positive and negative effects of constructing a dam on a river. Background The town of Big Sky, population 22,000, is located along the Scenic River. The people of Big Sky and other towns nearby are concerned with the recently developed Scenic River Dam proposal. The Big Sky Metropolitan Association proposed the construction of the dam as a result of a study they commissioned. They want to ensure the continued growth of the suburbs of Big Sky Metropolis -- and the suburbs need water. The study says that the most efficient way to provide the suburbs with water is by constructing the Scenic River Dam. The Scenic River Dam will also generate hydroelectricity for the local communities. The Scenic River Dam will be located about 40 kilometres from the town of Big Sky. Construction of the Scenic River Dam will take up to 25 years to complete, and will create a 7,300 hectare reservoir on the Scenic River. Wildlife will be affected in the following ways: q 40 km of a trout stream will be destroyed q wildlife habitat will be altered and/or threatened q water supplies near the Scenic River Dam will be depleted q wintering grounds for migrating birds may be affected q the upstream/downstream movement of fish on the Scenic River will be affected Environmentalists and dam engineers know that the water levels below the dam will be very low for at least part of the year. Water going over the dam will drop a very long distance. Another consideration is that very cold water from the bottom of the dam will be released into the river below. Other environmental impacts include the loss of a white-water section of the river that is now used by private and commercial rafting, kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts. Residents of Big Sky and the surrounding areas will also experience an increase in their power bills of about $10 a month for the next 30 years to pay for the new dam that will, eventually, generate hydroelectricity. While the people of Big Sky and surrounding communities are concerned about the potential for problems the Scenic River Dam will create, they are also interested in the benefits the dam will bring their area in terms of jobs and development. They know that the dam will provide work for approximately 2,000 workers during its development, and that it will employ 200 people permanently when the dam is complete. They can imagine how these new jobs will positively affect their community. They also know that the hydroelectricity the dam will generate when it is completed will probably be less expensive for them to pay for than the electricity they buy now, which is generated by the burning of fossil fuel. The hydroelectricity will also be more cleanly produced than the electricity that is generated now. Procedure Divide the class into groups of three students. Ask the students to individually choose a role from the list provided. They should prepare for their individual roles by writing background for their character of at least five sentences long. Have the students share, in groups of three, the position of each of the characters they have selected. While one student is speaking about their character’s position, the other students are recording what is being said. Discuss as a class the pros and cons of constructing the dam. The students discuss and record the following: q possible benefits to the people of Big Sky and area q negative consequences of the building of the dam for the people of Big Sky and area q positive impact on habitat - plants and wildlife q negative impact on habitat - plants and wildlife You may choose to hold a mock public hearing with class members playing out these roles, or to have the class produce and videotape a play. Choose from the following list of characters: 1. Rick Green - a representative of the local farmers’ coalition interested in the irrigation potential of the dam. 2. Lotta Power - a representative of the electrical power company interested in developing the dam. 3. Sam Fish - a local sporting goods store owner and avid trout fisher concerned with the loss of migration routed of fish on the river and the destruction of trout fishing. 4. Lynn Dripper - director of the Big Sky Water Quality Authority. She is responsible for providing high quality drinking water to the people of Big Sky, and is excited by the dam’s potential to provide a reservoir of high quality water that is usable during the long, hot summer months. 5. Irma Floaten - owner of a white-water rafting company who uses part of the Scenic River for commercial rafting. 6. Buddy Sky - president of the local bird watching club, who has organized eagle-watching trips to the Scenic River every year for the past 15 years. 7. Homer Owner - representative of home owners in the lower Scenic River Valley (below the dam) who are concerned about flood control. 8. Robert Law - the local police chief concerned about maintaining police protection, peace, health and safety regulations with only a three person staff as the only legal authority in Big Sky. 9. Cy Entist - a respected biologist prepared to testify about the potential effects of the dam on wildlife. 10. Virgil Economy - a businessperson concerned about the long range business potential of the Big Sky area. 11. Foress Terr - a person who has worked in the woods around Big Sky for more than 50 years. 12. B.G. Bottomline - a wealthy land developer who has architects working on designs for lakeside condos and resort homes. 13. Joe Average - a resident of the suburbs who says that Big Sky’s greed for water far exceeds 14. Josephine Average - a resident of Big Sky who says that there must be plans that involve less construction than the current proposal for the Scenic River Dam.
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