Cumberland Times-News

April 30, 2013

Might as well test the water both above and below the dam

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— It appears that Dee Dee Ritchie executive director of the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority, has signed on to the Cumberland Ridgeley dam removal effort being forced on the city by outside interests (“Canal Place wants to test river’s water,” April 26 Times-News, Page 1A).

The difference is that unlike past proponents, she at least has a plan — a plan to do long overdue water quality testing of the river’s water and a plan to create access to the potential historical boating use of this waterway.

The problem with their plan is the historical waterway did not exist below the original C& O Canal Dam, but above the dam.

The water above the dam is far more useful as a boating area for family use than the water below which being not as placid would be more useful to experienced canoeists.

According to Brian Dicken from the health department, the water quality test is a very simple and inexpensive test Would it not be logical therefore to sample the water above the dam as well as below to determine the water quality in that area?

If this simple test is not conducted above as well as below the dam, then any pretext of considering differing views on the dam removal issue is a farce.

Removal of old, possibly unsafe, useless dams from the country’s waterways is a laudable effort.

The Cumberland Ridgeley Dam hardly fits this criteria. In the 1950’s when as part of Cumberland Ridgeley Flood Control Project, the Canal Dam which existed for over a hundred years was removed.

A gift was then given to the Cumberland area — the gift of a quality concrete dam constructed by the Army Corp of Engineers and built to last decades.

For those of us who crossed the old Blue Bridge countless times and witnessed the open sewer that was then the Potomac River, the return of this waterway to its current clean state is a miracle.

But to then see efforts to destroy what we have waited for decades to see, the return of historical boating to this pristine, nearly three-mile long waterway to its former glory.

I know that there are many who share this vision but who remain silent. Silence and indifference equal approval. It is time for other voices to be heard and a true debate to occur with the best interests of the communities involved to be the goal.

It is this same silence and indifference that allowed much of historical Cumberland to be destroyed in the 1970’s in the name of progress.

Gary Clites

Carpendale, W.Va.