Several years ago, my lovely bride and myself took a canoe and went down the Big Sioux River, from Sioux Falls to Canton. When we would come up to a obstacle, we would stop, and look from the shore, before deciding weather or not try to go through it, or portage around it. When it came to low head dams, we would go always around. Some places had a nice trail to follow and some, we blazed own. Low-head dams are just plain dangerous to anyone floating down a river.
I have often wonder why they were build in the first place. More importantly, if they are so dangerous, why doesn’t someone take them out, or break them up.
As a general rule if you build something, you’re responsible for it. The problem comes when the entity is longer around to take care of a structure?
Many date to the early days of settlement. They are the legacy of lumber and gristmills, small hydropower plants and ice harvesting ventures that long ago passed into history. Others were built as public works projects during the Great Depression.
There seems to be a nasty ‘Not Us’ or ‘Not Me’ disease going around.
Ken McFarland, administrative officer for the Minnehaha County Commission, said commissioners don’t think they have any authority over low-head dams in the county.
onward and upward….
Sara Rabern, spokeswoman for the South Dakota Attorney General’s office, said if ownership of a dam can be determined, its regulation can be assigned to an agency.
Most likely anyone who might remember why the dam in the first place was built has passed away. A little hard to establish ownership when why it was built can’t be determined.
That leaves the Corps of Engineers.
Another irony surrounds the dams on the Big Sioux River. As a tributary of the Missouri River, the Big Sioux ultimately is the responsibility of the corps.
Did you really believe the Corps would take responsibility? They won’t even accept responsibility for their own problems.
At one time there was a canoe/kayaking club who was trying to create a canoe trail from Sioux Falls to Sioux City. Part of this trail included sign and portage trails around such things as low head dams. I know they have some success and are continuing to work on it.
So here we are. There a clear man-made danger, in the river, that has taken lives. Everyone thinks something should be done, however no one wants to take responsibility for it, and thinks someone else should deal with it.
An idea, stop pointing fingers; have each entity, city, county, state and federal each put up 25% of the cost to remove it, and just get it done.