Considering John Hall's Hydro Plan

Because I'm priced and taxed out of the Hudson Valley in considering housing for my retirement years, I've developed an affinity for Windows Live Local, which has a wonderful "Bird's Eye View" feature, letting you view major portions of the USA, from about 1000 feet up. It beats Terraserver's satellite views, and Google Earth's false perspective views, by letting you actually see that chicken farm right down the road from your Arkansas dream house, or that huge car body dump just behind that bargain priced Vermont farmhouse. I've noticed a lot of active sand & gravel quarries throughout western Massachusetts, in fairly close proximity to new upscale development, and it started me thinking about Saint Lawrence Cement, Scenic Hudson, and low-head hydropower.

I have duly sent in my contributions to Scenic Hudson every year for decades, and a "Stop the Plant" sign graced my front lawn until the rain turned it to paste on a stick. I considered an open-pit cement mine with a 500 foot stack to be an unneeded monstrosity on the Hudson, seeing as it would have only brought about 60 jobs to the region.

But low head hydropower, on a scale to meet the expected 5000 new megawatt demand, (or the shortfall from closing IPEC), would require concrete production on a scale to match the construction of the New York State Thruway 50 years ago, (the event that originally brought the St Lawrence cement plant to the area). The clearing of all the damsites, the terraforming, the actual construction, and the re-gridding of the area with hundreds of new transformer step-up stations, towers, high tension poles, and, ultimately, the new widely-dispersed electric power maintenance operation, one that will have the effect of taking the now-invisible prime mover generation assets sequestered in Indian Point, Bowline, & other brownfield campuses, and scattering them willy nilly in everybody's backyard, all this could very easily transform the region negatively, in ways not yet envisioned by those dreaming only of a forest paradise, and not realizing that a forest paradise generates no electricity.

For one thing, a multiplicity of generating stations, is a multiplicity of terrorist targets, or even just vandalism targets, and is also a multiplicity of workers' trucks, paved parking lots, trash collection, maintenance spills, stacking yards, restricted razor wired compounds, dangerous high voltage high energy-containing structures by their hundreds, or even thousands, of necessity respecting no neighborhood, no mountainside, no trout stream, and bringing opportunistic eminent domain landgrabs by the hundreds for sure, industrializing the very woods we love so much, because that's where the water flows.

So my pristine hike, with my springer spaniel Murphy, just might find us waving to those hydro guys in their truck, (as they toss their coffee cups by the road), smelling the waft from the maintanance crew's Port-O-San, just as we are blocked by that razor wire and its armed guard, right near that pile of pipes, under that transmission tower that didn't used to be there, before New York's 2800 new low head hydro generating stations were built.

Moreover the concrete for the dams has to come from somewhere. So if we blocked St Lawrence Cement at Greenport, and patted ourselves on the back for it, immediately prior to requiring twice the amount of cement the place would have produced, thus dooming some folks in Massachusetts to bear the dust, the smoke, the trucks, and the scarring above and beyond their existing ugly gravel quarries, wouldn't we then qualify in spades for the "Al-Gore-Two-Faces-NIMBY-Trickle-Down-Award-of-the-year", for screwing everybody in Pittsfield, to make Beacon's concrete for them?

I don't know. I can't say for sure. But it does give me pause.