“Dam you dirty apes! Dam you all to hell!”

Roger Voisinet, self-described “EcoBroker,” thinks that taking down the Woolen Mills dam was the worst thing ever, second only to the Rivanna Conservation Society, which is compared unfavorably to the Taliban. Apparently concrete dams are a crucial natural phenomenon that man ought not twiddle with.  #

17 Responses to ““Dam you dirty apes! Dam you all to hell!””


  • I didn’t know they’d wrecked it until just now. Damn. I didn’t even have to read the article to be saddened by this, but I did, and looked at the pictures elsewhere. Like most projects of its kind, this is clearly the work of people who are desperately in search of something to stand for at any cost.

    How a dam nearly 180 years old could block migration of fish that have so far not approached it within 35 miles is beyond me, but logic is lost on those who are determined to be remembered in the history books for having done … something.

    Congratulations, tree-huggers. You’ve got your way, and the only price is a piece of my hometown’s history.

    (P.S. – That “Monticello” thing up on the mountain? What an EYESORE! If we lose that, some migratory birds might nest in the area.)

  • Scott, are you seriously making a comparison between Monticello and some half-forgotten, broken dam?

  • I can’t tell who called me self described EcoBroker but they obviously do not know what they are talking about. See

    http://www.ecobroker.com

    or better yet just read the details on my bio. whoever wrote this did not bother to dig a bit deeper

  • An interesting article Mr. Voisinet has written. You run in certain circles and you just assume everyone hates damns.

  • I think it’s clear I wasn’t, Tim. The point is that one man’s eyesore is another man’s history, and we shouldn’t be demolishing what some consider a historic feature unless there’s a reason a lot more solid than “If you smash it, they will come.”

  • What constitutes “Natural”? I think this is the heart of the conflict here. There are some that would say that once a man made object has been part of the landscape long enough that it essentially becomes natural.

    I do agree that the entire Woolen Mills area is a really important historical area that we’ve done a terrible job managing as a community. There is alot more that could be done both in terms of safegarding the historical value and also bringing more attention to the area as a attraction possibly worthy of tourism.

    Where I think I’d differ is the idea that we should perpetually keep in place a dam that no longer serves a
    useful purpose, and which impedes the natural flow of the river. While there may have been better compromises possible, I think that RCS probably did the best they could with the budget they have. Besides, there’s really a difference between saying that we should keep Monticello around because of it’s historical value and claiming that that we should continue to have people live, there.

    Historical items don’t need to be actively used, to be historically valuable. In some cases, it’s not even ideal. After all, I’m certainly glad that we’ve removed all the coal-burning steam engines off the rails, even though its nice to visit them in museums and such, or see demonstrations. The whole philosophy of damming up rivers has played a really destructive role in our environment causing the near extinction of many species. I don’t think that you’ll find any evidence in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that claims that rivers are healthier being dammed up. If you do, then I’d love to hear about it.

    I am glad that our community is starting to ask questions like “How can we return to our ecology to a more natural state?” and I doubt this will be the last controversial issue revolving around that topic. In general, the different camps of enviromentalists advocating conservation, preservation or restoration have always been fiercely at odds with each other. In the past, it was the conservationists and preservationists like the Nature Conservancy that have always won out. Now I think many environmentalists, myself included, are realizing that preservation simply isn’t enough. Our environment and habitats have been so compromised that we can’t just “do nothing” anymore. It would be like finding someone injured on the side of the road and just watching them bleed to death. Without restoration and active management on a massive scale, many of our most important habitats and species are doomed. If that restoration comes at the cost of a little controversy then so be it.

  • What concerns me most about all this is the razing of a dam based upon human claims to know (a)what fish are thinking, and (b) their views of the future and especially their sexual needs.

  • Lonnie’s comments are well-said and thoughtful. The answers to environmental questions aren’t often easy, black-vs-white solutions. Contrast these comments with Mister “EcoBroker”. One wonders if such verbose and inflamed axe-grinding is good for the real estate biz…? I can’t imagine hiring someone like that.

  • Roger helped me find my house sixteen years ago. First house he showed me and my wife. Can’t buy the first house you see, not when you are buying your first house, so we looked at a few dozen others, and Roger kept bringing us back to this wonderful place, which we bought, and have lived here happily since. So I’d work with Roger again, even though I completely disagree with him about the dam. The bottom line on the dam (in my book) is that it was coming down all on it’s own, RCS just helped the process along. (The demolition was supposed to take weeks, and it took about a day, I think–I was out of town.)

  • the dam in question was (i) private property, (ii) a potential liability to the owners, (iii) an impediment to fish, (iv) an impediment to boaters, (v) an attractive nuisance (look it up mr. voisinet), (vi) a safety hazard, and (vii) a purposeless relic.

    first and foremost, the dam was private property and the owners had the right to do whatever they damn well pleased with it. and the owners wanted it breached. life, liberty, property (look it up – it’s in the damn constitution). the only reason (i’m guessing) that the public had any say whatsoever in this project is because federal and state funds were used, and incidentally, from the reporting at least, it seems the federal and state agencies were uniformly behind this project.

    sorry to all those who long for those wonderful days of yore: slavery, denying women the vote, horse and carriages, indentured servitude, robber barons…. yeah they were all great! historical relics are not sacrosanct, especially ones that you (yes, you, mr. voisinet) don’t own. sometimes progress demands that changes need to be made. consider here the clean air act, clean water act, cercla, rcra, nepa, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

    good for you, rcs, and shame on you, mr “ecodeveloper”.

  • and one more thing: perhaps mr. voisinet could actually be honest with the community about the genuine reason for his opposition to the dam removal. perhaps it’s because he liked a sculling pond in his backyard (made possible only by a dam which was not owned by him). or perhaps it is because of the “roving band of vandals” or other such ridiculous (and possibly racist) nonsense he predicted as a consequence of the dam removal in his official response to rcs’s state/federal application for removal. maybe someone out there from rcs can elucidate, but these comments, as i understand, were in the public record. taking a stand on principle is one thing, roger, taking a stand on self interest is quite another. please, good sir, share with the group your actual motivation here.

  • Lonnie and Karl and Scott- thanks for your fair and informative responses.

    Tim- I don’t know why you think the dam was “half-forgotten.” Perhaps you didn’t witness the streams of people coming down to say goodbye? Even people that supported the breach were emotional about it. Folks that live here know that the dam has always had many visitors and friends over the years.

    Estes- let’s discuss facts here, versus your suppositions. The owner of the dam specifically told the RCS that they could not consider the breach without getting the support of the neighborhood first. Your conjecture regarding the reason for the neighborhood’s input shows that you are indeed way out of the loop. But that’s puzzling considering that you seem to be a party to Mr Voisinet’s response to the application for removal. Even stranger when you’re publicly claiming to be somehow privy to his private thoughts…

    Your term “purposeless relic” is mind-boggling. A relic doesn’t have to actually DO anything– its purpose is contained within its existence.

    The state and federal approvals did not give a complete green light to the RCS to do whatever they wanted. There were important caveats regarding mitigation.

    Most people don’t see the dam as “sacrosanct” but they are very sad to see it go, and that includes the owner himself. For most of its existence, the dam was a symbol of the community. It’s a dam– not a slave block, or the yoke around Susan B Anthony’s neck. Spare us the histrionics.

    Man, this snarling, paranoid, history-dissing, frothing-at-the-mouth wing of the RCS makes what is in reality a fine organization look like a bunch of thugs. I’m a proud and out tree-hugger, but this experience has left me really wary of the RCS. That’s sad, because their mission has such merit.

  • I’ve been hearing about this project for years in the news, so it would seem that the various involved government agencies would have put it to rest years ago if they knew that it was a bad idea. the blogger might best serve his needs and interests by re-directing his questions to the multiple government agencies who approved the project.

    am i wrong?

  • Phillip C

    unfortunately, yes.

    ________

    re: Estes applied racism; pls call me directly and i will tell you the truth which has nothing at all to do with race.

  • I sorta liked the dam, but as for the historical argument, note that the Rivanna used to be navigable up to about where the South Fork Reservoir is now. There were locks near the confluence of the South and North forks (somewhere behind Gasoline Alley off E. Rio Rd., or from the other direction, Bentivar on Polo Grounds Rd.). I can’t remember if the Woolen Mills dam had locks or just was not there at the time, early 1800’s.

    Commercial navigation this far up was not used much, then the railroads appeared, etc. But further down, where the Rivanna meets the James, there was actually an elevated aqueduct so the two river-side canals could cross. It was demolished by the railroad, which owned it by then, in about 1943. Some effort at preservation was made. Columbia hasn’t been a tourist town since! ;)

    I’m rooting for the shad. Fresh shad roe, delicious.

  • One more thought, Roger’s right the process should be more democratic, even if I prefer shad roe to fantastic backyards. So what if it was privately owned, that doesn’t mean there’s no public interest.

    Plus that mud is going to grow back in. It’s deceptive to post those pictures and claim some great destruction. Nobody said there was a garden growing down there.

  • All the hoopla sent me down for a walk on my favorite trail. It’s wonderful to hear the sound of moving water now, even with the river this low in the drought. Schools of big fish in very shallow water. Also cool to note the topography that was hard to spot before: the river drops just after it makes the near U-turn below at the cemetery. Bill Emory discovered what appears to be ford at this spot: concrete pad 9 feet wide across the river. Anybody have any history on that?

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