Restoration ecology: Guiding the destruction of a century-old dam in Arizona
For nearly a century, a wooden contraption vaguely resembling Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster (or insert your own favorite rickety wooden roller) carried water from Arizona’s Fossil Creek down a flume and into two hydropower plants—a marvel of low-tech engineering. But the plant, built mostly by Apaches, outlived its usefulness a few years ago. And Arizona Public, the utility that owned it, agreed to demolish it in the interest of restoring the lush Fossil Creek habitat, which, says Jane Marks, looks more like Virginia than Arizona. But tearing down a dam isn’t easy. You can’t just pull a couple of struts out of the foundation, watch it collapse in a noisy cascade of falling timbers, and walk away. What do you do with the sediments behind the dam? Did the dam disrupt the habitat or native species, or encourage the survival of exotic species? How does one balance the often competing demands of habitat restoration and recreation? Marks, who was closely involved in the Fossil Creek recreation, will tell the story of what is one of the most successful dam removal projects to date—and which could serve as a model for river restorations around the world.