I would like to start with stating that I appreciate your article; it is nice to see somebody critical of both sides of an argument, as I find this more and more rare as of late.
To start, I just want to address the “natural river” idea. I completely agree with you that we cannot make the river natural ever again – once man has touched nature, it is no longer natural! That being said, I also agree with the ‘healthy river’ points that you make, though I find that the ‘healthy river’ that you seem to be referring to happens to be the same ideas as many of the ‘naturalists” views that you speak to. I don’t think the majority of those wanting the dam decommissioned are hoping for an entirely natural river, as it’s no longer feasible, but are speaking on behalf of those that cannot – the endangered species’ that have flourished since the dam has been out of use.
In regards to the social and environmental costs whether or not the dam is decommissioned, I think that is more where the debate lies. In my opinion, the social and environmental benefits in recommissioning the dam are purely recreational. Not only recreational, but conveniently recreational – as there is a State of the Art recreational facility at the Fanshawe Conservation Area which is less than a 10km drive away from the downtown core. The drawbacks, on the other hand, are that the entire list of different species that you listed (i.e. the Spiny Softshell Turtle, Queensnake, Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, Salamander (Mudpuppy) Mussel and Silver Shiner (fish), as well as species of special concern such as the Northern Map Turtle, Snapping Turtle and Green Dragon [perennial wildflower].) will disappear again from the river, as they had done previously. So my question to you (and anybody else who is interested in responding) is what is more important: the more convenient recreational space in the city’s core, or the lives of the species that I just listed who all contribute to our ecosystem?
In my opinion, keeping these species in the river (by decommissioning the dam) would make the Thames River the ‘healthy river’ that you later refer to in your work.
In regards to needing more people who canoe, kayak, etc. to use the river so that future generations continue to care about the river and ‘keep it healthy,’ I believe that if the younger generations see what happened to the environment in the past when the dam was in place should teach them to keep it healthy, and they can use the river at Fanshawe for recreation. Further, there was the suggestion of making the old dam into a bridge which solves making the dam a focal point so that others see it as something to take care of.
Thank you, again, for your response. I look forward to a reply if possible!